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Chrome

Chrome is Getting the Ability To Play FLAC (theverge.com) 76

Audiophiles are getting a new way to listen to one of the top formats for lossless music. From a report: Google has begun adding FLAC support to Chrome, and it should be rolling out to the masses very soon. FLAC support is already live in Chrome's beta build and it's live in the current version of Chrome OS, too. If you have local FLAC files or come across one on the web, the added support allows Chrome to open it up in a completely bare-bones music player that takes over the entire tab. It's not exactly elegant, but it works. And it means that Mac users with Chrome installed will have an easy way to play back FLAC files should they come across one. While there are plenty of apps that can handle FLAC -- VLC being a popular one -- no native macOS app is capable of it. Windows 10, on the other hand, includes native support.
Operating Systems

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros (macrumors.com) 161

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.
Chrome

Latest Adobe Acrobat Reader Update Silently Installs Chrome Extension (bleepingcomputer.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: The latest Adobe Acrobat Reader security update (15.023.20053), besides delivering security updates, also secretly installs the Adobe Acrobat extension in the user's Chrome browser. There is no mention of this "special package" on Acrobat's changelog, and surprise-surprise, the extension comes with anonymous data collection turned on by default. Bleeping Computer reports: "This extension allows users to save any web page they're on as a PDF file and share it or download it to disk. The extension is also Windows-only, meaning Mac and Linux Chrome users will not receive it. The extension requests the following permissions: Read and change all your data on the websites you visit; Manage your downloads; Communicate with cooperating native applications. According to Adobe, extension users 'share information with Adobe about how [they] use the application. The information is anonymous and will help us improve product quality and features,' Adobe also says. 'Since no personally identifiable information is collected, the anonymous data will not be meaningful to anyone outside of Adobe.'"
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.
Businesses

Apple's Share of PC Users Drops To A Five-Year Low (infoworld.com) 228

Windows 10 is installed on 24.5% of devices -- but that's only half the story. "Apple's Mac share of personal computers worldwide fell to a five-year low in December," reports Computerworld, adding that Linux and Windows "both benefited, with increases of around a half percentage point during 2016." An anonymous reader quotes their report: According to web analytics vendor Net Applications, Apple's desktop and notebook operating system -- formerly OS X, now macOS -- powered just 6.1% of all personal computers last month, down from 7% a year ago and a peak of 9.6% as recently as April 2016... The Mac's 6.1% user share in December was the lowest mark recorded by Net Applications since August 2011, more than five years ago... In October, the company reported sales of 4.9 million Macs for the September quarter, a 14% year-over-year decline and the fourth straight quarterly downturn. Apple's sales slide during the past 12 months has been steeper than for the personal computer industry as a whole, according to industry researchers from IDC and Gartner, a 180-degree shift from the prior 30 or so quarters, when the Mac's growth rate repeatedly beat the business average.
Apple's success through 2016 was "fueled by Microsoft's stumbles with Windows 8 and a race-to-the-bottom mentality among rival OEMs," according to the article, which also notes that the user share for Linux exceeded 2% in June, and reached 2.3% by November.
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."
Microsoft

Minecraft Has Now Sold Over 25 Million Copies on PC and Mac (neowin.net) 90

An anonymous reader shares a Neowin article: Minecraft is a 3D video game created by Markus Persson, and published on PC by Mojang back in 2011. Ever since its release, it's been very popular and has become a global phenomenon. Received positively by reviewers and consumers alike, it has been a commercial success. In fact, its continuing popularity prompted Microsoft to buy Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014. It so happens that the game has sold over 25 million copies on PC and Mac to-date. According to the latest statistics publicly available on Mojang's website, Minecraft has sold 25,072,545 copies on PC and Mac.
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."
Security

Norton Announces Core, a Smart Router To Protect Domestic IoT Devices (cnet.com) 119

fiannaFailMan writes: Norton has announced the launch of a smart router designed to protect connected home devices from intrusions. The Symantec-owned company says the device aims to keep safe up to 20 devices connected to it, including Windows computers, Macs, phones, tablets or any internet-of-things devices, in real time. Norton Core, shaped a little like a geodesic dome, can isolate an infected device from the rest of your network to prevent the spread of any malware. Some of the technical specifications include a dual-core 1.7GHz processor, 1MB of system memory and 4GB of flash memory, and the latest 4x4 AC2600 Wi-Fi standard, with a top speed on the 5GHz band of 1.73 megabits per second and up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. It also features four Gigabit LAN ports and can cover between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet.
Stats

Apple Tops Holiday Sales With 44 Percent of All New Device Activations (macrumors.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: Apple's iPhone and iPad were the most popular mobile devices gifted during the holidays this year, according to new data shared by Yahoo-owned mobile analytics firm Flurry. Flurry examined device activations by manufacturer between 12/19 and 12/25, finding Apple devices to be twice as popular as Samsung devices. 44 percent of all new phone activations were Apple iPhones, while Samsung smartphones accounted for 21 percent of activations. Huawei, LG, Amazon, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Motorola trailed behind with between two and three percent of activations each. Google's Pixel smartphone, which came out in October, did not make Flurry's list. Last year, Flurry released a similar report, and Apple devices made up 49.1 percent of all device activations, while Samsung devices came in at 19.8 percent. Phablets, or smartphones and tablets ranging in size from 5 inches to 6.9 inches, continued to grow in popularity. In 2016, the phablets category, which includes the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, 6s Plus, and 7 Plus, was responsible for 37 percent of total device activations. Medium-sized phones, like the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7, were responsible for 45 percent of all activations. Activations of full-sized tablets, like the iPad, have continued to wane. From Flurry's report: "While Samsung is slowly growing in popularity throughout the holiday season, up 1% from last year, Apple devices continue to be the gift to give. Holding the third and fourth positions for activations are Huawei and LG; which is remarkable, as both manufacturers do not have an individual device within the top 35 devices activated. Their high rank is likely due to the fact that they have wide variety of devices and affordable options (hundreds of phablet and medium phones) for consumers to choose from."
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.
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.
Desktops (Apple)

Raspberry Pi's Linux-Based PIXEL Desktop Now Available For PC and Mac (betanews.com) 50

From a report on BetaNews: If you own a Raspberry Pi, you're probably familiar with PIXEL. The desktop environment is included in the Raspbian OS. The Raspberry Pi Foundation describes PIXEL as the "GNU/Linux we would want to use" and understandably so. It offers a smart, clean interface, a decent selection of software, the Chromium web browser with plug-ins, and more -- and from today it's available for PC and Mac. The version of Debian+PIXEL for x86 platforms is described as "experimental" but having taken it for a spin, it seems pretty stable to me. To run PIXEL on your PC or Mac, download the image, burn it onto a DVD or flash it onto a USB memory stick, and boot from it. The desktop environment will load ready for use.
Iphone

Nokia Sues Apple, Claims Patent Infringement in iPhone and Other Devices (marketwatch.com) 77

Nokia today announced a number of patent infringement complaints against Apple in Europe and the U.S. courts. There are 32 patents in total that Nokia claims Apple infringed, covering technologies such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets and video coding. From a report on MarketWatch: Nokia said Apple agreed to license a few of Nokia Technologies' patents in 2011, but has declined offers by Nokia since then to license other patents whose inventions have been used in Apple mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad, and the Mac. The lawsuits, filed in a Munich, Germany, regional court and a district court in Texas, cover technologies such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets and video coding. Nokia said it's in the process of filing further actions in other jurisdictions as well. "After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple's use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights," said Ilkka Rahnasto, head of patent business at Nokia.
Businesses

Apple In Talks With India To Manufacture Locally (reuters.com) 118

Apple is in talks with India's government to explore making products locally, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, as the U.S. firm aims to make deeper inroads in the world's second-largest mobile phone market by users. From a report: India Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to boost technology manufacturing in the country through his 'Make in India' initiative. His government in June exempted foreign retailers for three years from a requirement to locally source 30 percent of goods sold in their stores. The Journal said Apple, in a letter to the federal government in November, outlined manufacturing plans and asked for financial incentives.
Businesses

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.
Desktops (Apple)

Adobe Releases Flash Player 24 For Linux Four Years After the Last Major Update (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: Adobe released today Flash Player 24 for Linux, after previously abandoning the application without explanation in 2012. The NPAPI architecture of Flash Player for Linux is now on par with Windows and Mac releases on version 24, after spending the last few years stuck at version 11.2 and only receiving small patches and security fixes, but no new features. Today's Flash Player 24 for Linux release comes after Adobe teased its release on August 31, and later released a Beta version (v23) in October. Despite updating Flash Player for Linux to the same version number as its Windows and Mac alternatives, the Linux variant still lags behind on features. While Flash Player 24 includes all the security features included in the Windows and Mac versions, the Linux version doesn't support accelerated GPU 3D acceleration and video DRMs. If users need these features, Adobe says users should use Chrome for Linux, where Google's own port, the Pepper Flash plugin (PPAPI architecture) supports them.
Security

Zero-Days Hitting Fedora and Ubuntu Open Desktops To a World of Hurt (arstechnica.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: It's the year of the Linux desktop getting pwned. Chris Evans (not the red white and blue one) has released a number of linux zero day exploits, the most recent of which employs specially crafted audio files to compromise linux desktop machines. Ars Technica reports: "'I like to prove that vulnerabilities are not just theoretical -- that they are actually exploitable to cause real problems,' Evans told Ars when explaining why he developed -- and released -- an exploit for fully patched systems. 'Unfortunately, there's still the occasional vulnerability disclosure that is met with skepticism about exploitability. I'm helping to stamp that out.' Like Evans' previous Linux zero-day, the proof-of-concept attacks released Tuesday exploit a memory-corruption vulnerability closely tied to GStreamer, a media framework that by default ships with many mainstream Linux distributions. This time, the exploit takes aim at a flaw in a software library alternately known as Game Music Emu and libgme, which is used to emulate music from game consoles. The two audio files are encoded in the SPC music format used in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System console from the 1990s. Both take aim at a heap overflow bug contained in code that emulates the console's Sony SPC700 processor. By changing the .spc extension to .flac and .mp3, GSteamer and Game Music Emu automatically open them."
Desktops (Apple)

A $300 Device Can Steal Mac FileVault2 Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: Swedish hardware hacker Ulf Frisk has created a device that can extract Mac FileVault2 (Apple's disk encryption utility) passwords from a device's memory before macOS boots and anti-DMA protections kick in. The extracted passwords are in cleartext, and they also double as the macOS logon passwords. The attack requires physical access, but it takes less than 30 seconds to carry out. A special device is needed, which runs custom software (available on GitHub), and uses hardware parts that cost around $300. Apple fixed the attack in macOS 10.12.2. The device is similar to what Samy Kamker created with Poison Tap.

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