Intel

Apple To Refresh Entire MacBook Lineup Next Month, Air and Pro To Feature Kaby Lake (bloomberg.com) 234

Apple will unveil new laptops during its annual developer conference, known as WWDC, next month, reports Bloomberg. The company is going to refresh the MacBook Pro (as well as Air and just the 'MacBook' models) with new seventh-gen processors from Intel, the newest available, the report adds. Last year, Apple launched three new MacBook Pro laptops with older sixth-generation chips, which means people who already own the newer model may be a bit dismayed by Apple's refresh. From the article: Apple is planning three new laptops, according to people familiar with the matter. The MacBook Pro will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Apple is also working on a new version of the 12-inch MacBook with a faster Intel chip. The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple's cheapest, remain surprisingly strong, one of the people said.
Chrome

Should You Leave Google Chrome For the Opera Browser? (vice.com) 303

mspohr shares a report written by Jason Koebler via Motherboard who makes the case for why you should break up with Chrome and switch to the Opera browser: Over the last few years, I have grown endlessly frustrated with Chrome's resource management, especially on MacOS. Admittedly, I open too many tabs, but I'd wager that a lot of you do, too. With Chrome, my computer crawls to complete unusability multiple times a day. After one too many times of having to go into Activity Monitor to find that one single Chrome tab is using several gigs of RAM, I decided enough was enough. I switched to Opera, a browser I had previously thought was only for contrarians. This, after previous dalliances with Safari and Firefox left me frustrated. Because Opera is also based on Blink, I almost never run into a website, plugin, script, or video that doesn't work flawlessly on it. In fact, Opera works almost exactly like Chrome, except without the resource hogging that makes me want to throw my computer against a brick wall. This is exactly the point, according to Opera spokesperson Jan Standal: "What we're doing is an optimized version of Chrome," he said. "Web developers optimize most for the browser with the biggest market share, which happens to be Chrome. We benefit from the work of that optimization."

Slashdot reader mspohr adds: "I should note that this has also been my experience. I have a 2010 MacBook, which I was ready to trash since it had become essentially useless, coming to a grinding halt daily. I tried Opera and it's like I have a new computer. I never get the spinning wheel of death. (Also, the built-in ad blocker and VPN are nice.)" What has been your experience with Google Chrome and/or Opera? Do you prefer one over the other?

Microsoft

Microsoft Thinks USB-C Isn't Ready For the Mainstream (digitaltrends.com) 293

When Microsoft unveiled the Surface Laptop last week, it left many customers and members of the press scratching their heads over its lack of a USB Type-C port. According to general manager of Surface Engineering, Pete Kyriacou, Microsoft seems to think that the technology isn't ready for the mainstream. Digital Trends reports: Microsoft does not want customers to deal with the various Type-C cables, underwhelming chargers, all the adapters, and the third-party Type-C docks. That is why the Surface Laptop features only one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, one headphone jack, one Mini DisplayPort connector, and the Surface Connect port. Simplicity. That latter connection is how customers can "safely" expand their Surface device experience. Microsoft's $200 Microsoft Surface Dock adds two Mini DisplayPort connectors, one gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports, and one audio out port. The dock connects to a compatible Surface device via Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect port. Right now, it works with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book but the Surface Laptop will undoubtedly be added soon. While limiting a Surface device's connectivity seems like forcing customers into purchasing the dock, Microsoft sees this setup as brand stability. Customers won't get ticked at Microsoft because they are confused about the different types of cables, chargers, and so on. Microsoft is controlling the end-to-end experience and there is nothing wrong with that.
Microsoft

Surface Laptop Can Be Switched To Windows 10 Pro For Free Until 2018 (cnet.com) 150

An anonymous reader shares a report: Don't let the new Windows 10 S operating system stop you from buying a Surface Laptop this year. The streamlined OS limits you to using applications that are in Microsoft's Windows Store. But, as noted in the tech specs for Microsoft's new ultraportable, if you'd rather run non-Store apps, you can switch to Windows 10 Pro for free until December 31, 2017. Once 2018 hits, the switch to Pro will cost $49. But be warned: Once you upgrade your license key, you can't go back.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils the Surface Laptop, a Traditional Notebook That Is 'Better' Than MacBook Pro (engadget.com) 247

On the sidelines of Windows 10 S and affordable Chromebook-like laptops announcements, Microsoft also announced the newest addition to its Surface computing lineup. Dubbed the Surface Laptop, the laptop starts at $999, and is for everyone, the company claims, though the focus is on students and professionals. From a report: The Surface Laptop includes a 13.5-inch PixelSense display (Microsoft's branding for its unique screen technology) and a keyboard draped in Alcantara, a smooth cloth-like material. It's powered by Intel's most recent Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, and it can pack in an SSD up to 1TB (that's notably integrated directly onto the motherboard). Performance-wise, Microsoft's Surface head, Panos Panay, claims the Laptop is 50 percent faster than the Core i7 MacBook Air while also being lighter. (Editor's note: Panos added that the Surface Laptop also outpaces the MacBook Pro on performance.) You can also expect up to 14.5 hours of battery life, thanks to Windows 10 S's battery savings and more efficient hardware. One thing you won't see on the Surface Laptop: Speaker holes or grills. Microsoft managed to fit the speakers behind the keys, which Panay claims delivers a more enveloping sound. Microsoft says it has also improved the standby time -- so much so that "you could go away on spring break and still have the same battery life when you returned."
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Forces Recyclers To Shred All iPhones and MacBooks (vice.com) 224

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple released its Environmental Responsibility Report Wednesday, an annual grandstanding effort that the company uses to position itself as a progressive, environmentally friendly company. Behind the scenes, though, the company undermines attempts to prolong the lifespan of its products. Apple's new moonshot plan is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate. But documents obtained by Motherboard using Freedom of Information requests show that Apple's current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could do: Salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap. Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused -- instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass. "Materials are manually and mechanically disassembled and shredded into commodity-sized fractions of metals, plastics, and glass," John Yeider, Apple's recycling program manager, wrote under a heading called "Takeback Program Report" in a 2013 report to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. "All hard drives are shredded in confetti-sized pieces. The pieces are then sorted into commodities grade materials. After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale."
Power

Study Shows Laptop Batteries Often Don't Last As Long As They Say (digitaltrends.com) 87

A new study conducted by Which? magazine has found that "the battery life claimed by laptop manufacturers rarely lives up to reality. "Although Apple's battery life claims were the closest to reality, in the case of some other manufacturers, their laptops lasted hours less than the stated time," reports Digital Trends. From the report: In its testing, Which looked at the battery life claims of 67 different laptop models from manufacturers as diverse as Asus, Apple, Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba -- some of the world's most popular laptop makers. It found that while Apple's average claim of 10 hours was proven correct -- and was even slightly better in some cases -- Dell's claims were overstated by more than four hours, and HP, close to five. The times listed in the header image are the average claimed battery life for all of the laptops Which? has tested over the past year versus the times it recorded in its internal testing. That involved charging the laptops to full, then running them down to nothing three times, using online web browsing via Wi-Fi or watching local videos to do so. Out of all laptops tested, the only manufacturer to understate battery claims was Apple. In one case, it claimed that its MacBook Pro 13 could achieve 10 hours of usage, while tests suggested it could go for as long as 12 hours. At the other end of the spectrum though, there were some really egregious overstatements. The Lenovo Yoga 510 has a claimed battery life of five hours -- it only lasted two hours and seven minutes. The HP Pavilion 14-al115na is supposed to be able to run for nine hours, but was only capable of four hours and 25 minutes. The Acer E15 claimed six hours but ran for just under three hours.
Patents

Apple Explores Using An iPhone, iPad To Power a Laptop (appleinsider.com) 76

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has filed a patent for an "Electronic accessory device." It describes a "thin" accessory that contains traditional laptop hardware like a large display, physical keyboard, GPU, ports and more -- all of which is powered by an iPhone or iPad. The device powering the hardware would fit into a slot built into the accessory. AppleInsider reports: While the accessory can take many forms, the document for the most part remains limited in scope to housings that mimic laptop form factors. In some embodiments, for example, the accessory includes a port shaped to accommodate a host iPhone or iPad. Located in the base portion, this slot might also incorporate a communications interface and a means of power transfer, perhaps Lightning or a Smart Connector. Alternatively, a host device might transfer data and commands to the accessory via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless protocol. Onboard memory modules would further extend an iOS device's capabilities. Though the document fails to delve into details, accessory memory would presumably allow an iPhone or iPad to write and read app data. In other cases, a secondary operating system or firmware might be installed to imitate a laptop environment or store laptop-ready versions of iOS apps. In addition to crunching numbers, a host device might also double as a touch input. For example, an iPhone positioned below the accessory's keyboard can serve as the unit's multitouch touchpad, complete with Force Touch input and haptic feedback. Coincidentally, the surface area of a 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is very similar to that of the enlarged trackpad on Apple's new MacBook Pro models. Some embodiments also allow for the accessory to carry an internal GPU, helping a host device power the larger display or facilitate graphics rendering not possible on iPhone or iPad alone. Since the accessory is technically powered by iOS, its built-in display is touch-capable, an oft-requested feature for Mac. Alternatively, certain embodiments have an iPad serving as the accessory's screen, with keyboard, memory, GPU and other operating guts located in the attached base portion. This latter design resembles a beefed up version of Apple's Smart Case for iPad.
Security

Edge, VMWare, Safari, And Ubuntu Linux Hacked at Pwn2Own 2017 (trendmicro.com) 83

The 10th annual Pwn2Own hacking competition ended Friday in Vancouver. Some of the highlights:
  • Ars Technica reports one team "compromised Microsoft's heavily fortified Edge browser in a way that escapes a VMware Workstation virtual machine it runs in... by exploiting a heap overflow bug in Edge, a type confusion flaw in the Windows kernel and an uninitialized buffer vulnerability in VMware."
  • Digital Trends reports "Samuel Grob and Niklas Baumstark used a number of logic bugs to exploit the Safari browser and eventually take root control of the MacOS on a MacBook Pro, [and] impressed onlookers even more by adding a custom message to the Touch Bar which read: "pwned by niklasb and saelo."
  • Ubuntu 16.10 Linux was also successfully attacked by exploiting a flaw in the Linux 4.8 kernel, "triggered by a researcher who only had basic user access but was able to elevate privileges with the vulnerability to become the root administrative account user..." reports eWeek. "Chaitin Security Research Lab didn't stop after successfully exploiting Ubuntu. It was also able to successfully demonstrate a chain of six bugs in Apple Safari, gaining root access on macOS."
  • Another attacker "leveraged two separate use-after-free bugs in Microsoft Edge and then escalated to SYSTEM using a buffer overflow in the Windows kernel."

None of the attendees registered to attempt an attack on the Apache Web Server on Ubuntu 16.10 Linux, according to eWeek, but the contest's blog reports that "We saw a record 51 bugs come through the program. We paid contestants $833,000 USD in addition to the dozen laptops we handed out to winners. And, we awarded a total of 196 Master of Pwn points."


Intel

Intel Security Releases Detection Tool For EFI Rootkits After CIA Leak (pcworld.com) 159

After WikiLeaks revealed data exposing information about the CIA's arsenal of hacking tools, Intel Security has released a tool that allows users to check if their computer's low-level system firmware has been modified and contains unauthorized code. PCWorld reports: The release comes after CIA documents leaked Tuesday revealed that the agency has developed EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) rootkits for Apple's Macbooks. The documents from CIA's Embedded Development Branch (EDB) mention an OS X "implant" called DerStarke that includes a kernel code injection module dubbed Bokor and an EFI persistence module called DarkMatter. In addition to DarkMatter, there is a second project in the CIA EDB documents called QuarkMatter that is also described as a "Mac OS X EFI implant which uses an EFI driver stored on the EFI system partition to provide persistence to an arbitrary kernel implant." The Advanced Threat Research team at Intel Security has created a new module for its existing CHIPSEC open-source framework to detect rogue EFI binaries. CHIPSEC consists of a set of command-line tools that use low-level interfaces to analyze a system's hardware, firmware, and platform components. It can be run from Windows, Linux, macOS, and even from an EFI shell. The new CHIPSEC module allows the user to take a clean EFI image from the computer manufacturer, extract its contents and build a whitelist of the binary files inside. It can then compare that list against the system's current EFI or against an EFI image previously extracted from a system.
Apple

Apple Suspends Sales of LG's UltraFine 5K Monitor Over Hardware Issues (appleinsider.com) 79

Roger Fingas, writing for AppleInsider: Apple has temporarily stopped sales of LG's UltraFine 5K monitor, due to technical problems associated with a lack of proper shielding from wireless interference. Over the weekend, Apple retail staff were told to keep the product on display yet not sell any units if people asked, according to a Business Insider source. The site added that it heard the same from a representative at a New York Apple store. Separately, AppleInsider has confirmed the organized removal from sale of the Thunderbolt 3 display. Sources inside Apple not authorized to speak on behalf of the company indicated that retail locations are retaining demonstration displays, but not selling any stock on-hand that it may receive that may actually have the shielding fix, nor filling any pending orders until otherwise informed. Big blow to Apple, which has given up on external monitors business. But at least, it's comforting to know people who wish to purchase a new display for their MacBook or MacBook Pro have several company-approved alternatives. Oh wait, they don't.
Iphone

Apple's Ultra Accessory Connector Dashes Any Hopes of a USB-C iPhone (theverge.com) 153

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Among all the iPhone 8 concepts and daydreams, my favorite scenario has always been to see Apple replacing its proprietary Lightning connector with the USB-C one that's taken over the entire rest of the smartphone world. Apple is already a strong proponent of USB-C, having moved to it aggressively with the new MacBook Pros in October, but the company also maintains Lightning for its iPhones and iPads -- which creates a lot of headaches for people desiring universal accessories that work with everything inside the Cupertino ecosystem. Alas, after yesterday's revelation of a new Ultra Accessory Connector (UAC), which is intended to ameliorate some of the pain of having both USB-C and Lightning devices, it looks like the dream of a USB-C iPhone will forever remain just that. The UAC connector is going to be used as an intermediary in headphone wires, splitting them in half so that the top part can be universal, and the bottom can be either a Lightning, USB-C, USB-A, or a regular old 3.5mm analog plug. The intent is to restore some of the universality of wired headphones -- which, until not too long ago, all terminated in a 3.5mm connector (or 6.35mm on non-portable hi-fi models designed for at-home listening). With UAC, a headphone manufacturer can issue multiple cable terminations very cheaply, making both the headphones and any integrated electronics, like a digital-to-analog converter or built-in microphone, compatible across devices with different ports. Why this matters with regard to the iPhone's sole remaining port is simple: if Apple was planning to switch its mobile devices to USB-C, it wouldn't have bothered with creating a Made for iPhone standard for UAC. It would have just made the port change.
Businesses

The Leap Week: Did Apple Really Have a Record Quarter? (lapcatsoftware.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Apple stated that Q1 FY2017 was an all-time record for quarterly revenue. The media dutifully and mostly uncritically spread this "great" news for Apple. Technically the claim is true, the revenue was an all-time record. True but misleading. Although Apple didn't lie as such, you might say there was a sin of omission, and a definite spin of the facts. Most Apple fiscal quarters are 13 weeks long. Once in a while, however, they need a 14 week quarter. You might call it a "leap quarter". There was a good explanation of this financial practice a few years ago in Slate. Apple's Q1 2017 was a 14 week quarter, for the first time since Q1 2013. John Gruber writes at DaringFireball, "Adjusted for the extra week, Apple actually had another down quarter."
Communications

LG Confirms 5K Mac Monitor Has Issue When Placed Near a Router, Says New Batch To Have Enhanced Shielding (recode.net) 67

Late last month, we learned that LG's UltraFine 5K Display, which was designed in part by Apple to work with the new MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, would flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers if placed within two meters of a router. The company has acknowledged the issue, and says it will add enhanced shielding to its 5K monitors to prevent interferences with nearby wireless routers in the upcoming batch. From a report: "LG apologizes for this inconvenience and is committed to delivering the best quality products possible, so all LG UltraFine 27-inch 5K displays manufactured after February 2017 will be fitted with enhanced shielding," the company said in an email. Existing models will be able to be retrofitted with the enhanced shielding, which will allow the monitor to be placed near a router.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Developing Custom ARM-Based Mac Chip That Would Lessen Intel Role (bloomberg.com) 267

According to Bloomberg, Apple is designing a new chip for future Mac laptops that would take on more of the functionality currently handled by Intel processors. The chip is a variant of the T1 SoC Apple used in the latest MacBook Pro to power the keyboard's Touch Bar feature. The updated part, internally codenamed T310, is built using ARM technology and would reportedly handle some of the computer's low-power mode functionality. From the report: The development of a more advanced Apple-designed chipset for use within Mac laptops is another step in the company's long-term exploration of becoming independent of Intel for its Mac processors. Apple has used its own A-Series processors inside iPhones and iPads since 2010, and its chip business has become one of the Cupertino, California-based company's most critical long-term investments. Apple engineers are planning to offload the Mac's low-power mode, a feature marketed as "Power Nap," to the next-generation ARM-based chip. This function allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use. The feature currently uses little battery life while run on the Intel chip, but the move to ARM would conserve even more power, according to one of the people. The current ARM-based chip for Macs is independent from the computer's other components, focusing on the Touch Bar's functionality itself. The new version in development would go further by connecting to other parts of a Mac's system, including storage and wireless components, in order to take on the additional responsibilities. Given that a low-power mode already exists, Apple may choose to not highlight the advancement, much like it has not marketed the significance of its current Mac chip, one of the people said. Building its own chips allows Apple to more tightly integrate its hardware and software functions. It also, crucially, allows it more of a say in the cost of components for its devices. However, Apple has no near-term plans to completely abandon Intel chips for use in its laptops and desktops, the people said.
Education

Touch Bar MacBook Pros Are Being Banned From Bar Exams Over Predictive Text (techcrunch.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: When it launched late last year, the new MacBook Pro's Touch Bar was largely reliant on first-party applications to show off what it could do. Since then, a number of other companies have jumped on board, helping the secondary screen grow into something more than novelty. Of course, as with any new technology, there's going to be some unanticipated downside. Test taking software company Examsoft, for one, believes the input device could help facilitate cheating among students taking the bar exam. What's perhaps most interesting here, is that the company's calling out one of Touch Bar's more mundane features: predictive text. "By default," the company writes, "the Touch Bar will show predictive text depending on what the student is typing, compromising exam integrity." It's hard to say precisely how the company expects a standard feature on mobile devices to help students pass one of the more notoriously exam out there, but The Next Web notes that some states have already taken action. North Carolina, for one, has required test takers with the new model MacBooks to disable the Touch Bar, while New York is banning the machines altogether.
Displays

LG's UltraFine 5K Display Becomes Useless When It's Within Two Meters of a Router (9to5mac.com) 173

The LG UltraFine 5K Display was designed in part by Apple to work with the New MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, which was discontinued late last year. According to 9to5Mac, the display apparently wasn't designed to work next to routers as it will flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers when it's within two meters of a router due to electromagnetic interference. The Verge reports: In emails to 9to5Mac, LG acknowledged the problem -- which LG says isn't an issue for any of its other monitors -- noting that routers "may affect the performance of the monitor" and that users should "have the router placed at least two meters away from the monitor" to avoid issues. Once the monitor was moved into a different room away from the router, 9to5Mac says the issues subsided. Despite the fact that it's insane to require a router to be far away from what is likely the main computer in your home, there's been no indication that LG is working on a fix for the issue, which may be more troublesome.
Power

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)."

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