McGruber writes "Walt Mossberg, principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has written his last column after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products for the newspaper. His final column discusses the dozen personal-technology products that were most influential over the past two decades."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
beaverdownunder writes "Apple has agreed to an agreement to ensure staff inform customers of rights under Australian consumer law. Despite the 2011 law requiring retailers to provide a refund option for faulty goods, and free repairs to items reasonably expected to still function properly (this part of the law is intentionally ambiguous), Apple steadfastly stuck to its AppleCare program, denying warranty repairs to units more than one year old (without the purchase of an extension) and only offering replacement or credit for DOA items. Apple has promised to compensate all Australian customers who were charged for repairs during the last two years, and make the terms of the law clear on the Australian Apple website. How this will affect company warranty policy is unclear — under the law, consumers could be entitled to repairs for the life of the product (barring damage, of course)."
New submitter ttyler writes "It turns out a MacBook's built-in camera can be activated without turning on the green LED. An earlier report suggested the FBI could activate a device's camera without having the light turn on, and there was a case in the news where a woman had nude pictures taken of her without her knowledge. The new research out of Johns Hopkins University confirms both situations are possible. All it takes are a few tweaks to the camera's firmware."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chuong Nguyen reports that Apple is forcing developers to adopt iOS 7's visual UI for their apps, and has advised iOS developers that all apps submitted after February 1, 2014 must be optimized for iOS 7 and built using Xcode 5 ... 'It's likely that Apple is more anxious than ever for developers to update their apps to fit in visually and mechanically with iOS 7, as it's the largest change in the history of Apple's mobile software,' says Matthew Panzarino. 'iOS 7 introduced a much more complex physical language while stripping out many of the visual cues that developers had relied on to instruct users. For better or worse, this has created a new aesthetic that many un-updated apps did not reflect.' Most app developers have been building apps optimized towards iOS 7 since Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June 2013. Apple has been on a push over the past couple of years to encourage developers to support the latest editions of its OS faster than ever. To do this, it's made a habit of pointing out the adoption rates of new versions of iOS, which are extremely high. Nearly every event mentions iOS 7 adoption, which now tops 76% of all iOS users, and Apple publishes current statistics. In order to optimize apps for the new operating system, they must be built with the latest version of Xcode 5 which includes 64-bit support and access to new features like backgrounding APIs."
Preston Gralla hasn't really been following Microsoft since 1820, but he's been doing it so long that it sometimes seems as if he has. His popular Seeing Through Windows blog on Computerworld.com or possibly his IT World blog, The Power of One, may be the main reasons his name is familiar to a lot of people, but he's also written an amazing stack of IT-related books. Obviously, if you look at the lists of blog posts and books Preston has written, he writes about plenty besides Microsoft, and isn't particularly pro-Microsoft. In fact, when we asked him for tablet-buying advice, he recommended iOS tablets if you have plenty of budget, and maybe an Android tablet (specifically the Nexus 7) if your budget is a little tight. Windows? He didn't recommend Windows at all in this context. (Sorry, Microsoft.)
msm1267 writes "Users of Apple's Safari browser are at risk for information loss because of a feature common to most browsers that restores previous sessions. The problem with Safari is that it stores session information including authentication credentials used in previous HTTPS sessions in a plaintext XML file called a Property list, or plist, file. The plist files, a researcher with Kaspersky Lab's Global Research and Analysis Team said, are stored in a hidden folder, but hiding them in plain sight isn't much of a hurdle for a determined attacker. 'The complete authorized session on the site is saved in the plist file in full view despite the use of https,' said researcher Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky on the Securelist blog. 'The file itself is located in a hidden folder, but is available for anyone to read.'"
mrspoonsi writes "BBC reports: Leading global technology firms have called for 'wide-scale changes' to US government surveillance. Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group. The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programs. 'We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,' the group said in an open letter published on its website."
First time accepted submitter cs80 writes "I've been looking high and low for a decent, open-source, cross-platform audio player that can import an existing iTunes library and sort my files based on their ID3 tags. Nightingale, with its iTunes-like interface, would have been the obvious answer, but its file organization feature was pulled for being too buggy. What open-source audio player did you migrate to after dumping iTunes?"
stigmato writes "Once upon a time the MacBook Pro line was well-regarded amongst IT professionals for their quality, performance, serviceability & upgradeability. As appealing as the new Retina displays are, I don't want a device I cannot upgrade or repair. Glued in batteries and soldered in RAM with high prices have made me look to other manufacturers again. What are you buying, /. community? System76? Dell? Old article but still rings true with the latest models. I post this from my 2010 MBP 13" with a 256GB SSD, 1TB HDD in the optical bay, 8GB (possibly 16GB soon) and a user replaced battery."
The reports that Apple was to buy Israeli 3-D sensor maker PrimeSense have turned out to be correct; the BBC reports that Apple has confirmed the purchase, though it is mum both about the price it paid and about where 3D sensors are likely to show up first in the Apple lineup. Also at the Register and Apple Insider, among others.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that self-professed Apple fanatic Jonathan Zufi has published a book of photography profiling 500 of Apple's products through the years, because unlike other companies Apple has unapologetically focused on design says Zufi and he wants to celebrate that with his images. 'Other companies came up with the guts for a machine and then the engineers would find a way to stuff them into a box,' says Zufi. 'Steve Jobs started with the box and said, "You need to find a way to get the guts in."' It's an unlikely project for a software engineer with no formal photography training. Zufi bought new equipment and consulted with a professional as he began the project, which was four years in the making. 'I had a sudden memory of an old game I used to play in high school called Robot War,' says Zufi. 'I hopped on eBay to look for the game and an old Apple II to play it on, and that's how I ended up looking through old Apple products.' Zufi says that he approached each shot by looking for an image that would 'create that same emotional connection to that product, but maybe doesn't look like something you've seen before,' and says that his mission is to showcase the entire spectrum of products that Apple have sold to the public since 1976 – every desktop, every laptop, every notebook, monitor, iPod, iPad, iPhone, mouse, keyboard, modem, cable, port, adapter, docking station, memory expansion card — and that's just their hardware."
itwbennett writes "After 3 days of deliberations, a jury has ordered Samsung to pay $290 million to Apple for infringement of several of its patents in multiple Samsung smartphones and tablets. The verdict is the second victory for Apple in its multiyear patent fight against Samsung in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Last year a jury in the same San Jose courtroom ruled Samsung should pay just over $1 billion for infringement of five Apple patents in multiple Samsung phones and tablets. But afterward, Judge Lucy Koh ordered a new trial to reconsider $450 million of the damages after finding the previous jury had applied an 'impermissible legal theory' to its calculations. Thursday's verdict is the result of that new trial."
mrspoonsi writes with news that Apple's plan to raze the old HP headquarters and replace it with some kind of space ship is moving forward. From the article: "A little over two years since Steve Jobs presented his case for it and after the occasional setback, the Cupertino City Council has finally given Apple full approval to go ahead with its futuristic campus. In exchange, Apple has agreed to fork over more money to the city in the form of a reduced sales tax rebate — going forward, Cupertino will only give back 35 percent sales tax instead of the 50 percent it had previously. Indeed, as soon as Apple gets its final permits some time today, it can begin demolishing the former HP headquarters and start building its own."
Several sources, including this report at Forbes, and this one at All Things Digital, say that Apple has bought (or is in the process of buying) Tel-Aviv based PrimeSense, the company behind the 3-D sensing technology in Microsoft's Kinect, for $345 million. The Forbes piece also gives a compact but interesting summary of the possibilities of ubiquitous 3-D hardware, and the sudden, recent drop in price of the components necessary for that to happen. Devices like the Lynx 3-D scanner that I saw at last year's SXSW (targeting the cheap and portable end of the 3-D scanning market) may have a lot of competition in the near future.
Frankie70 writes in with some more bad news for Apple in Europe. "U.S. tech giant Apple is under investigation in Italy for allegedly hiding 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) from the local tax authority, two judicial sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Milan prosecutors say Apple failed to declare to Italian tax authorities 206 million euros in 2010 and 853 million euros in 2011, one of the sources said, confirming a report by Italian magazine L'Espresso. The Italian subsidiary of Apple booked some of its profit through Irish-based subsidiary Apple Sales International (ASI), thus lowering its taxable income in Italy, the source said."
gbooch writes "The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, is not just a museum of hardware, but also of software. The Museum has made public such gems as the source code for MacPaint, Photoshop, and APL, and now code from the Apple II. As their site reports: 'With thanks to Paul Laughton, in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Damer, founder and curator of the Digibarn Computer Museum, and with the permission of Apple Inc., we are pleased to make available the 1978 source code of Apple II DOS for non-commercial use. This material is Copyright © 1978 Apple Inc., and may not be reproduced without permission from Apple.'"
An anonymous reader writes "An Apple insider who asked not to be identified because the information is classified told Bloomberg that Apple's next iPhone models will come with curve displays and enhanced touchscreen sensors that can detect heavy and light touches. The two models -- 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches -- would be Apple's largest iPhones. Apple is still developing the two models and the person disclosed that Apple could launch the devices in the third quarter of next year."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Tucked inside Apple's first-ever transparency report, published yesterday, was a not-so-subtle dig at the tech giant's competitors. 'Our business does not depend on collecting personal data,' Apple wrote. 'We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers.' It's no secret that for social web companies like Google or Facebook, collecting, storing, and analyzing data about every aspect of your life translates into cold, hard cash—the more sensitive and personal, the better. But in the emerging post-NSA new world order, the unwritten privacy-for-cool services agreement that drives the internet ecosystem is making netizens increasingly uneasy."
Trailrunner7 writes "In a new report (PDF) detailing the number and kind of requests for user information it's gotten from various governments, Apple said it has never received a request for information under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and would likely fight one if it ever came. The company also disclosed that it has received between 1,000 and 2,000 requests for user data from the United States government since January, but it's not clear how many of those requests it complied with because of the restrictions the U.S. government places on how companies can report this data. Right now, companies such as Apple, Google and others that issue so-called transparency reports are only allowed to report the volume of requests they get in increments of 1,000. So Apple's report shows that although it received 1,000-2,000 requests for user data so far in 2013, the number that it complied with is listed as 0-1,000. Apple, along with a number of other companies, including Google and Microsoft, have asked the government in recent months for permission to disclose more specific numbers of requests, including specific numbers of National Security Letters."
New submitter GODISNOWHERE writes "Nortel went bankrupt in 2009. In 2011, it held an auction for its massive patent portfolio. The winners of the auction were Apple, Microsoft, Sony, RIM, and others, who bought the patents for $4.5 billion as a consortium named Rockstar Bidco. At the time, many people speculated those patents would be used against Google, who bid separately but lost. It turns out they were right. Rockstar has filed eight lawsuits in federal court targeting Google and Android device manufacturers. 'The complaint (PDF) against Google involves six patents, all from the same patent "family." They're all titled "associative search engine," and list Richard Skillen and Prescott Livermore as inventors. The patents describe "an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network. The oldest patent in the case is US Patent No. 6,098,065, with a filing date of 1997, one year before Google was founded. The newest patent in the suit was filed in 2007 and granted in 2011. The complaint tries to use the fact that Google bid for the patents as an extra point against the search giant.'"