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Operating Systems

tvOS 12 Brings Dolby Atmos Support, Zero Sign-In, and TV App Improvements (macworld.com) 47

If you're using an Apple TV as your main streaming box, you will be happy to know several big improvements are coming to the platform. Macworld reports of what's new in tvOS 12: With tvOS 12, Dolby Atmos comes to the Apple TV 4K. All you need for full 3D immersive audio is an Atmos-supporting sound bar or receiver. This makes Apple TV 4K the only streaming media box to be certified for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

One of the best features of tvOS 11 is called Single Sign-on. You add your TV provider's login information to your Apple TV device. If an app supports Single Sign-on, you can log in with your TV provider with just a few taps. It's a big step forward, but still a little bit of a pain. With tvOS 12, Apple makes the whole process totally seamless with Zero Sign-on. Here's how it works: If your TV provider is your Internet provider (a very common occurrence here in the United States), and your Apple TV is connected to the Internet through that provider, you sign in automatically to any Apple TV app your provider gives you access to. Just launch the app, and you're signed in, no passwords or configuration needed at all.

Apple's breathtaking 4K video screensavers, called "Aerials," is one of those minor delights that Apple TV 4K users can't get enough of. In tvOS 12, they get better. You can tap the remote to see the location at which the Aerial was filmed. A new set of Aerials is the star of the show, however. Called "Earth," these are stunning videos from space, taken by astronauts at the International Space Station.
Furthermore, the TV app will provide live content from select TV providers; Charter Spectrum will support the app with live channels and content later this year. Apple is also now allowing third-party home control systems' remotes to control your Apple TV (including Siri).
Advertising

Washington Sues Facebook, Google For Failure To Disclose Political Ad Spending (techcrunch.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information -- such as the advertiser's address -- as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state's attorney general. Washington law requires that "political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided." Specifically, "documents and books of account" must be made available for public inspection during the campaign and for three years following; these must detail the candidate, name of advertiser, address, cost and method of payment, and description services rendered. Bob Ferguson, Washington's attorney general, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that both Facebook and Google "failed to obtain and maintain" this information.
DRM

Flight-Sim Maker Threatens Legal Action Over Reddit Posts Discussing DRM (arstechnica.com) 175

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today's controversy begins with a Reddit thread that noted FlightSimLabs' A320 add-on installing "cmdhost.exe" files in the "system32" and "SysWOW64" folders inside the Windows directory. The strange filename and location -- which seems designed to closely match those of actual Windows system files -- made some Reddit users suspicious, especially given FlightSimLabs history of undisclosed installations. FlightSimLabs responded on Facebook last Thursday by saying that the files came from third-party e-commerce service eSellerate and were designed to "reduce the number of product activation issues people were having." This system has been acknowledged in the FlightSimLabs forums in the past, and it apparently passes all major antivirus checks.

The "controversy" over these files might well have died down after that response. But then FlightSimLabs' Simon Kelsey sent a message to the moderators of the flightsim subreddit, gently reminding them of "Reddit's obligation as a publisher... to ensure that any libelous content is taken down as soon as you become aware of it." While ostensibly welcoming "robust fair comment and opinion," the message also warns that "ANY suggestion that our current or future products pose any threat to users is absolutely false and libelous." That warning extends to the company's previous password-extractor controversy, with Kelsey writing, "ANY suggestion that any user's data was compromised during the events of February is entirely false and therefore libelous." "I would hate for lawyers to have to get involved in this, and I trust that you will take appropriate steps to ensure that no such libel is posted," Kelsey concludes. A follow-up message from Kelsey reiterated the same points and noted that FlightSimLabs has reported specific comments and demanded they be removed as libelous.

Privacy

Edward Snowden: 'The People Are Still Powerless, But Now They're Aware' (theguardian.com) 155

Edward Snowden has no regrets five years on from leaking the biggest cache of top-secret documents in history. He is wanted by the US. He is in exile in Russia. But he is satisfied with the way his revelations of mass surveillance have rocked governments, intelligence agencies and major internet companies. From a report Snowden, weighing up the changes, said some privacy campaigners had expressed disappointment with how things have developed, but he did not share it. "People say nothing has changed: that there is still mass surveillance. That is not how you measure change. Look back before 2013 and look at what has happened since. Everything changed."

The most important change, he said, was public awareness. "The government and corporate sector preyed on our ignorance. But now we know. People are aware now. People are still powerless to stop it but we are trying. The revelations made the fight more even."

Facebook

Apple Jams Facebook's Web-Tracking Tools (bbc.com) 117

The next version of iOS and macOS "will frustrate tools used by Facebook to automatically track web users," reports BBC. At the company's developer conference, Apple's software chief Craig Federighi said, "We're shutting that down," adding that Safari would ask owners' permission before allowing the social network to monitor their activity. BBC reports: At the WWDC conference - held in San Jose, California - Mr Federighi said that Facebook keeps watch over people in ways they might not be aware of. "We've all seen these - these like buttons, and share buttons and these comment fields. "Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not." He then pointed to an onscreen alert that asked: "Do you want to allow Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing?" "You can decide to keep your information private."

Apple also said that MacOS Mojave would combat a technique called "fingerprinting", in which advertisers try to track users who delete their cookies. The method involves identifying computers by the fonts and plug-ins installed among other configuration details. To counter this, Apple will present web pages with less details about the computer. "As a result your Mac will look more like everyone else's Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device," Mr Federighi explained.

Facebook

Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access To Data On Users and Friends (nytimes.com) 32

According to a report from The New York Times, Facebook formed data-sharing partnerships with Apple, Samsung, and dozens of other device makers, allowing them to access vast amounts of its users' personal information (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers -- including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung -- over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, "like" buttons and address books.

But the partnerships, whose scope has not previously been reported, raise concerns about the company's privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users' friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found. Most of the partnerships remain in effect, though Facebook began winding them down in April.

Cellphones

Smartphone Shipments Declined For the First Time In 2017 (theverge.com) 144

2017 was the first year that smartphone unit shipments didn't grow, according to a new Internet Trends report. "Shipments actually declined by 0.5 percent, as IDC noted in February," reports The Verge. "In 2016, shipments were lukewarm at 2 percent yearly growth, but this downturn is significant." From the report: Among smartphone shipments, Android and iOS have all but completely pushed out every other mobile operating system. And despite the growing price of today's top flagship devices, the average selling price of a smartphone has steadily fallen over the years. As more of the world now owns smartphones, growth has basically stalled. Similarly, internet user growth has only grown 7 percent in 2017, compared to 12 percent in 2016. More people are accessing the internet than ever, on an average of 5.9 hours a day. And they're browsing on mobile, indicating that they're just holding onto older models of phones instead of buying new ones.
Microsoft

Microsoft Sticks With Controversial 'GVFS' Name Despite Backlash (medium.com) 203

New submitter DuroSoft writes: It has been over a year since Microsoft unveiled its open source GVFS (Git Virtual File System) project, designed to make terabyte-scale repositories, like it's own 270GB Windows source code, manageable using Git. The problem is that the GNOME project already has a virtual file system by the name of GVfs that has been in use for years, with hundreds of threads on Stack Overflow, etc. Yet Microsoft's GVFS has already surpassed GVfs in Google and is causing confusion. To make matters worse, Microsoft has officially refused to change the name, despite a large public backlash on GitHub and social media, and despite pull requests providing scripts that can change the name to anything Microsoft wants. Is this mere arrogance on Microsoft's part, laziness to do a quick Google search before using a name, or is it something more sinister?
Communications

Snapchat's CEO On Facebook's Long History of Copying His Company's Products (theverge.com) 17

Earlier this week, Snap's CEO Evan Spiegel publicly addressed Facebook's long-standing practice of copying his company's products, joking that Facebook should model Snap's approach to collecting less information about its users. "We would really appreciate it if they copied our data protection practices also," Spiegel said on Tuesday night at the Code Conference in Southern California. The Verge reports: Interviewer Kara Swisher asked Spiegel how he felt about Facebook's decision to copy key Snapchat innovations including ephemeral 24-hour stories and augmented reality lenses. Spiegel first said that his wife, Miranda Kerr, cared more about it than he did. Snap collects less data on users than Facebook does, though it does still allow advertisers to target ads based on demographic criteria that the company gathers. It has never offered a full-featured API that allows users to give away their friends' information, as Facebook once did.

Spiegel went on to say that he looked at Facebook's copying as a designer. "If you design something that is so simple and so elegant, that the only thing other people can do is copy it exactly [...] that as a designer is really is the most fantastic thing in the world," Spiegel said.

The Internet

CSS Is Now So Overpowered It Can Deanonymize Facebook Users (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: Some of the recent additions to the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) web standard are so powerful that a security researcher has abused them to deanonymize visitors to a demo site and reveal their Facebook usernames, avatars, and if they liked a particular web page of Facebook. Information leaked via this attack could aid some advertisers linking IP addresses or advertising profiles to real-life persons, posing a serious threat to a user's online privacy. The leak isn't specific to Facebook but affects all sites which allow their content to be embedded on other web pages via iframes.

The actual vulnerability resides in the browser implementation of a CSS feature named "mix-blend-mode," added in 2016 in the CSS3 web standard. Security researchers have proven that by overlaying multiple layers of 1x1px-sized DIV layers on top of iframes, each layer with a different blend mode, they could determine what's displayed inside it and recover the data, to which parent websites cannot regularly access. This attack works in Chrome and Firefox, but has been fixed in recent versions.

Firefox

'Why I'm Switching From Chrome To Firefox and You Should Too' (fastcodesign.com) 337

An anonymous reader quotes an associate technology editor at Fast Company's Co.Design: While the amount of data about me may not have caused harm in my life yet -- as far as I know -- I don't want to be the victim of monopolistic internet oligarchs as they continue to cash in on surveillance-based business models. What's a concerned citizen of the internet to do? Here's one no-brainer: Stop using Chrome and switch to Firefox... [W]hy should I continue to use the company's browser, which acts as literally the window through which I experience much of the internet, when its incentives -- to learn a lot about me so it can sell advertisements -- don't align with mine....?

Unlike Chrome, Firefox is run by Mozilla, a nonprofit organization that advocates for a "healthy" internet. Its mission is to help build an internet in an open-source manner that's accessible to everyone -- and where privacy and security are built in. Contrast that to Chrome's privacy policy, which states that it stores your browsing data locally unless you are signed in to your Google account, which enables the browser to send that information back to Google. The policy also states that Chrome allows third-party websites to access your IP address and any information that site has tracked using cookies. If you care about privacy at all, you should ditch the browser that supports a company using data to sell advertisements and enabling other companies to track your online movements for one that does not use your data at all.... Firefox protects you from being tracked by advertising networks across websites, which has the lovely side effect of making sites load faster...

Ultimately, Firefox's designers have the leeway to make these privacy-first decisions because Mozilla's motivations are fundamentally different from Google's. Mozilla is a nonprofit with a mission, and Google is a for-profit corporation with an advertising-based business model.. While Firefox and Chrome ultimately perform the same service, the browsers' developers approached their design in a radically different way because one organization has to serve a bottom line, and the other doesn't.

The article points out that ironically, Mozilla supports its developers partly with revenue from Google, which (along with other search engines) pays to be listed as one of the search engines available in Firefox's search bar.

"But because it relies on these agreements rather than gathering user data so it can sell advertisements, the Mozilla Corporation has a fundamentally different business model than Google."
Classic Games (Games)

Atari Launches Linux Gaming Box Starting at $199 (linux.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes Linux.com: Attempts to establish Linux as a gaming platform have failed time and time again, with Valve's SteamOS being the latest high-profile casualty. Yet, Linux has emerged as a significant platform in the much smaller niche of retro gaming, especially on the Raspberry Pi. Atari has now re-emerged from the fog of gaming history with an Ubuntu-based Atari VCS gaming and media streaming console aimed at retro gamers. In addition to games, the Atari VCS will also offer Internet access and optional voice control. With a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the system can be used as a standard Linux computer.

The catch is that the already delayed systems won't ship until July 2019... By the launch date, Atari plans to have "new and exclusive" games for download or streaming, including "reimagined classic titles from Atari and other top developers," as well as multi-player games. The Atari VCS Store will also offer video, music and other content... The hardware is not open source, and the games will be protected with HDCP. However, the Ubuntu Linux stack based on Linux kernel 4.10 is open source, and includes a "customizable Linux UX." A Linux "sandbox" will be available for developing or porting games and apps. Developers can build games using any Linux compatible gaming engine, including Unity, Unreal Engine, and Gamemaker. Atari also says that "Linux-based games from Steam and other platforms that meet Atari VCS hardware specifications should work."

Atari boasts this will be their first device offering online multi-player experiences, and the device will also come pre-loaded with over 100 classic Atari games.

An Indiegogo campaign this week seeking $100,000 in pre-orders has already raised over $2.2 million from 8808 backers.
Privacy

German Spy Agency Can Keep Tabs On Internet Hubs, Federal Court Rules (phys.org) 54

Earlier this week, a federal court in Germany threw out a challenge by the world's largest internet hub, the De-Cix exchange, against the tapping of its data flows by the BND foreign intelligence service. What this means is that the country's spy agency can continue to monitor major internet hubs if Berlin deems it necessary for strategic security interests. From a report: The operator had argued the agency was breaking the law by capturing German domestic communications along with international data. However, the court in the eastern city of Leipzig ruled that internet hubs "can be required by the federal interior ministry to assist with strategic communications surveillance by the BND." De-Cix says its Frankfurt hub is the world's biggest internet exchange, bundling data flows from as far as China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, which handles more than six terabytes per second at peak traffic.

De-Cix Management GmbH, which is owned by eco Association, the European internet industry body, had filed suit against the interior ministry, which oversees the BND and its strategic signals intelligence. It said the BND, a partner of the US National Security Agency (NSA), has placed so-called Y-piece prisms into its data-carrying fibre optic cables that give it an unfiltered and complete copy of the data flow. The surveillance sifts through digital communications such as emails using certain search terms, which are then reviewed based on relevance.

Youtube

YouTube's Top Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down En Masse (polygon.com) 308

Polygon reports of several prominent YouTube creators who are struggling with burnout. The cause can be attributed to "constant changes to the platform's algorithm, unhealthy obsessions with remaining relevant in a rapidly growing field and social media pressures [that] are making it almost impossible for top creators to continue creating at the pace both the platform and audience want," reports Polygon. From the report: Three weeks ago, Bobby Burns, a YouTuber with just under one million subscribers, sat down on a rock in Central Park to talk about a recent mental health episode. One week ago, Elle Mills, a creator with more than 1.2 million subscribers, uploaded a video that included vulnerable footage during a breakdown. Six days ago, Ruben "El Rubius" Gundersen, the third most popular YouTuber in the world with just under 30 million subscribers, turned on his camera to talk to his viewers about the fear of an impending breakdown and his decision to take a break from YouTube. Burns, Mills and Gundersen aren't alone. Erik "M3RKMUS1C" Phillips (four million subscribers), Benjamin "Crainer" Vestergaard (2.7 million subscribers) and other top YouTubers have either announced brief hiatuses from the platform, or discussed their own struggles with burnout, in the past month. Everyone from PewDiePie (62 million subscribers) to Jake Paul (15.2 million subscribers) have dealt with burnout. Lately, however, it seems like more of YouTube's top creators are coming forward with their mental health problems. In closing, Polygon's Julia Alexander writes: "YouTube offers no clear support system for creators, nor is it clear if the company has offered professional help to some of its top creators who've made their burnout public. Instead, YouTube's only direct reaction is a playlist dedicated to burnout and mental health. The creators are essentially working until they no longer physically can, and apologizing to their fans after believing they've failed. Polygon has reached out to YouTube for more information about services that are provided to creators. The only way to beat burnout is to take breaks. Unfortunately, for many YouTubers, those breaks are rarely planned."
Microsoft

Microsoft Is Talking About Acquiring GitHub, Says Report (zdnet.com) 164

The Welcome Rain shares a report from ZDNet: Microsoft officials have been talking to GitHub about possibly acquiring the company, according to a June 1 report in Business Insider. BI claims that the two have discussed the possibility of an acquisition on an on-and-off-again basis over the years "but in the last few weeks talks have grown more serious." BI is citing unnamed "people close to the companies" as its sources. "This isn't as surprising as it would have been ten or more years ago," writes The Welcome Rain. "Microsoft is investing a lot in git, including GVFS, a Git Virtual File System to help Git work with very large codebases. What might this mean for the future of Github?"
Facebook

Facebook Is Killing Off Trending As It Tries To Revamp Newsfeed (betanews.com) 55

Mark Wilson writes: Facebook has announced plans to kill off the Trending feature of its newsfeed. The social network says that this is to "make way for future news experiences." Over the years, Facebook has experimented endlessly with the presentation of news, and has faced criticism for failing to weed out "fake news" and also accusations of liberal bias. Now the company wants to find new ways to help people find news that matters to them, ensuring that it comes from reliable sources.
Communications

Ticketfly Temporarily Shuts Down To Investigate 'Cyber Incident' (engadget.com) 26

Earlier today, ticket distribution service Ticketfly shut down after a "cyber incident" compromised its systems. A hacker reportedly defaced the company's website and claimed to have compromised the "backstage" database where festivals, promoters and venues manage their events. Engadget reports: The intrusion might have started through Ticketfly's Wordpress blog -- the hacker claimed to have downloaded and posted this on Ticketfly's site before it was taken down. The firm hasn't said when it expects services to return to normal, and it has yet to gauge the full extent of the breach. It took everything down out of an "abundance of caution," according to a spokesperson. According to Motherboard, the hacker apparently demanded a single bitcoin to divulge the vulnerability that left Ticketfly open to attack. You can view the FAQ page for more information on the incident.
Facebook

Now Even Russian Lawmakers Want a Piece of Mark Zuckerberg (qz.com) 73

PolygamousRanchKid shares a report from Quartz: In an ironic twist in the saga of Facebook's troubles, Russian lawmakers have declared that they, too, would like to question Mark Zuckerberg. According to the Moscow Times, senator Anton Belyakov yesterday offered to invite the Facebook CEO to address the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. "After all, he spoke about information security, not giving access to personal data, preventing the dissemination of harmful content," Belyakov reportedly said, referring to Zuckerberg's meetings with the U.S. Congress and European Parliament. Another reason for those meetings was to discuss whether the social network facilitated Russian meddling in foreign elections.

The U.S. company is in trouble with Russian authorities for disobeying a 2015 law that requires it to store the data of Russian citizens on the country's soil. In April, the state communications watchdog threatened that if Facebook didn't comply, it would face the same fate as LinkedIn, which was banned in the country last year. Much to the chagrin of UK politicians, he (Zuckerberg) has not agreed to multiple calls, and even a mild threat, to testify in front of a UK parliamentary committee.

Youtube

America's Teens Are Choosing YouTube Over Facebook (bloomberg.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Three years ago, Facebook was the dominant social media site among U.S. teens, visited by 71 percent of people in that magic, trendsetting demographic. Not anymore. Now only 51 percent of kids ages 13-17 use Facebook, according to Pew Research Center. The world's largest social network has finally been eclipsed in popularity by YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook Inc.-owned Instagram. Alphabet Inc.'s YouTube is the most popular, used by 85 percent of teens, according to Pew.

Instagram is slightly more popular than Snapchat overall, Pew said, with 72 percent of respondents saying they use the photo-sharing app, compared with Snapchat's 69 percent. But Snap Inc. is holding its own, despite Instagram's frequent parroting of its features. About one-third of the survey's respondents said they visit Snapchat and YouTube most often, while 15 percent said Instagram is their most frequent destination. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of teens said Facebook is their most-used online platform. The Pew analysis was based on a survey of 1,058 parents who have a teenager from 13 to 17, as well as interviews with 743 teens themselves.
The survey also found that 99% of teens own a smartphone or have access to one, and 45% said they're online "on a near-constant basis."
AT&T

AT&T Wants To Settle With FTC To Avoid Unlimited Data Throttling Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 35

AT&T has given up its years-long quest to cripple the Federal Trade Commission's authority to regulate broadband providers. "Just weeks ago, AT&T said it intended to appeal its loss in the case to the U.S. Supreme Court before a deadline of May 29," reports Ars Technica. "But today, AT&T informed (PDF) court officials that it has decided not to file a petition to the Supreme Court and did not ask for a deadline extension." From the report: AT&T had been trying to limit the FTC's authority since October 2014, when the FTC sued AT&T for promising unlimited data to wireless customers and then throttling their speeds by as much as 90 percent. With AT&T having ruled out a Supreme Court appeal, the FTC can finally pursue its case against AT&T and try to secure refunds for affected customers. AT&T's decision also means that traditional phone companies will have to face some net neutrality oversight from the FTC after the Federal Communications Commission finalizes its net neutrality repeal. AT&T said it will try to settle the case with the FTC instead of going to trial. AT&T's decision might indicate that it is already having settlement talks with the agency.

"We have decided not to seek review by the Supreme Court, to focus instead on negotiating a fair resolution of the case with the Federal Trade Commission," AT&T said in a statement to Ars. The FTC is barred from regulating common carriers, and AT&T has long been a common carrier for its mobile voice and landline phone services. AT&T previously argued that the FTC can't regulate any product offered by AT&T, whether it is or isn't a common carrier service. Though ultimately unsuccessful, AT&T's attempt to deny the FTC's authority to regulate any aspect of its business has delayed the throttling case for years.

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