Apple Files Patent For a Crumb-Resistant MacBook Keyboard ( 91

According to a patent application made public on Thursday, March 8, Apple could be developing a new MacBook keyboard designed to prevent crumbs and dust from getting those super-shallow MacBook keys stuck. "Liquid ingress around the keys into the keyboard can damage electronics. Residues from such liquids may corrode or block electrical contacts, getting in the way of key movement and so on," the patent application reads. Digital Trends reports: The application goes on to describe how those problems might be remedied: With the careful application of gaskets, brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps beneath keycaps. One solution would include a membrane beneath each key, effectively insulating the interior of the keyboard from the exterior, while another describes using each keypress as a "bellows" to force contaminants out of the keyboard. "A keyboard assembly [could include] a substrate, a key cap, and a guard structure extending from the key cap that funnels contaminants away from the movement mechanism," the patent application reads.
Portables (Apple)

Apple To Release a Cheaper MacBook Air Later This Year ( 149

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, Apple doesn't appear to be axing its MacBook Air line, despite it being on the market for ten years. Kuo says Apple is planning to release a 13-inch MacBook Air "with a lower price tag" during the second quarter of 2018, which should help push MacBook shipments up by 10-15 percent this year. 9to5Mac reports: Details on the new MacBook Air are sparse, but this report from KGI corroborates a similarly vague report from Digitimes earlier this year. The MacBook Air line has been largely stagnate in recent years as Apple has shifted focus towards the 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro. Currently, Apple sells the 13-inch MacBook Air starting at $999, and KGI seems to think it will get even cheaper this year. Despite its neglect by Apple, the MacBook Air remains a popular choice for college students.

New Apple Patent Imagines an OLED Screen As a Keyboard For MacBooks ( 119

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent titled "dual display equipment with enhanced visibility and suppressed reflections." The documentation for what is patent number 9,904,502 outlines a device that would use a second display as a dynamic keyboard. Two implementations of this design are described in the patent application, according to Patently Apple. The first utilizes a permanent hinge, while the second allows the screen to be removed and used separately, along the lines of Microsoft's Surface Pro range and other two-in-one computers. The patent documentation makes it clear that the implementation is not intended as an accessory that would allow two iPads to be paired together, with one serving as the keyboard. Additionally, illustrations associated with the application explicitly state that one screen is an OLED display, while the other is an LCD. A double-display set-up could provide easy access to a different keyboard layout language, context-sensitive controls, or even a large sketching surface to use in conjunction with something like an Apple Pencil. However, that flexibility would come at the cost of the traditional typing experience offered by a mechanical keyboard.

Pop-Up Cameras Could Soon Be a Mobile Trend ( 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: There's an interesting concept making its way around Mobile World Congress. Two gadgets offer cameras hidden until activated, which offer a fresh take on design and additional privacy. Vivo built a camera into a smartphone concept that's on a little sliding tray and Huawei will soon offer a MacBook Pro clone that features a camera hidden under a door above the keyboard. This could be a glimpse of the future of mobile design. Cameras have long been embedded in laptops and smartphones much to the chagrin of privacy experts. Some users cover up these cameras with tape or slim gadgets to ensure nefarious players do not remotely activate the cameras. Others, like HP, have started to build in shutters to give the user more control. Both DIY and built-in options require substantial screen bezels, which the industry is quickly racing to eliminate.

With shrinking bezels, gadget makers have to look for new solutions like the iPhone X notch. Others still, like Vivo and Huawei, are look at more elegant solutions than carving out a bit of the screen. For Huawei, this means using a false key within the keyboard to house a hidden camera. Press the key and it pops up like a trapdoor. We tried it out and though the housing is clever, the placement makes for awkward photos -- just make sure you trim those nose hairs before starting your conference call. Vivo has a similar take to Huawei though the camera is embedded on a sliding tray that pops-up out of the top of the phone.

Desktops (Apple)

Apple Could Use ARM Coprocessors for Three Updated Mac Models ( 119

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple could be working on three new Mac models for this year. From a report: All three of them could feature an ARM coprocessor to improve security. Apple isn't switching to ARM chipsets altogether. There will still be an Intel CPU in every Mac, but with a second ARM processor. Currently, the MacBook Pro features a T1 chip while the iMac Pro features a T2 chip. On the MacBook Pro, the ARM coprocessor handles the Touch ID sensor and the Touch Bar. This way, your fingerprint is never stored on your laptop's SSD drive -- it remains on the T1 secure enclave. The Intel CPU only gets a positive response when a fingerprint is validated. The iMac Pro goes one step further and uses the T2 to replace many discrete controllers. The T2 controls your stereo speakers, your internal microphone, the fans, the camera and internal storage.

Apple Might Discontinue the MacBook Air ( 155

An anonymous reader shares a report: Just in time for its tenth anniversary, Apple might finally be killing the MacBook Air, according to a new report from Digitimes. If this is true, it'd be the first axing of a laptop line from Apple since the iBook and Powerbook were axed back in 2006. It would also be about damn time. Apple quietly killed the 11-inch MacBook Air back in 2016, but the larger 13-inch version has lingered on, getting a mild processor refresh last year that still left the laptop using a 5th generation Intel processor. That's three generations behind the processors currently found in the MacBook Air's competition, and it is the primary reason the laptop was excluded from our piece looking at the best laptop to be had for under $1000.
Desktops (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: What's the Fastest Linux Distro for an Old Macbook 7,1? 248

Long-time Slashdot reader gr8gatzby writes: I have an old beautiful mint condition white Macbook 7,1 with a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo and 5GB RAM. Apple cut off the upgrade path of this model at 10.6.8, while a modern-day version of any browser requires at least 10.9 these days, and as a result my browsing is limited to Chrome version 49.0.2623.112.

So this leaves me with Linux. What is the fastest, most efficient and powerful distro for a Mac of this vintage?

It's been nearly eight years since its release, so leave your best thoughts in the comments. What's the best Linux distro for an old Macbook 7,1?

The Human Cost of the Apple Supply Chain Machine ( 175

Apple is still struggling to improve working conditions at its supply chain factories. China Labor Watch and Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Catcher, a key supplier for iPhone and MacBook casings, makes workers endure harsh safety conditions and unfair work terms in a factory in Suqian. According to observers and discussions with workers, the machines are not only loud, but spray fluid and metallic particles that frequently hit workers' faces only some of which have access to safety goggles and gloves. From the report: Hundreds throng a workshop where the main door only opens about 12 inches. Off duty, they return to debris-strewn dorms bereft of showers or hot water. Many go without washing for days at a time, workers told Bloomberg. "My hands turned bloodless white after a day of work," said one of the workers, who makes a little over 4,000 yuan a month (just over $2 an hour) in her first job outside her home province of Henan. She turned to Catcher because her husband's home-decorating business was struggling. "I only tell good things to my family and keep the sufferings like this for myself." "I asked for the earplugs many times but they didn't have any. The loud noise of 'zah-zah' made my head ache and dizzy," one of those employees told Bloomberg.
Portables (Apple)

10 Years of the MacBook Air ( 152

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air. "Apple's Macworld 2008 was a special one, taking place just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show had ended and Bill Gates bid farewell to Microsoft," The Verge recalls. "Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by removing it from a tiny paper office envelope, and the crowd was audibly shocked at just how small and thin it was..." From the report: At the time, rivals had thin and light laptops on the market, but they were all around an inch thick, weighed 3 pounds, and had 8- or 11-inch displays. Most didn't even have full-size keyboards, but Apple managed to create a MacBook Air with a wedge shape so that the thickest part was still thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony TZ Series -- one of the thinnest laptops back in 2008. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, and it signaled a new era for laptops. Apple ditched the CD drive and a range of ports on the thin MacBook Air, and the company introduced a multi-touch trackpad and SSD storage. There was a single USB 2.0 port, alongside a micro-DVI port and a headphone jack. It was minimal, but the price was not. Apple's base MacBook Air cost $1,799 at the time, an expensive laptop even by today's standards.

Apple's MacBook Air-like Store Roof Wasn't Designed To Handle Snow... in Chicago ( 190

An anonymous reader shares a report Apple opened its new flagship retail store in Chicago earlier this year to much acclaim, but as the weather turns from fall to winter, a design oversight is causing some problems. As reported by Chicago blog Spundart, Apple seemingly didn't design the MacBook Air-like roof of the store to account for snow... in Chicago. Apple's newest Chicago store garnered earlier attention for its roof design that mimics a MacBook Air, but one clear oversight is that there are no gutters to catch snow or ice. Furthermore, as the multi-level store sits along the Chicago River, the roof is sloped downward, meaning that anyone standing on the walkway along the river gets hit with falling snow and ice. Further reading: Apple is really bad at design.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple To Review Software Practices After Patching Serious Mac Bug ( 192

Apple said on Wednesday it would review its software development process after scrambling to patch a serious bug it learned of on Tuesday in its macOS operating system for desktop and laptop computers. From a report: "We greatly regret this error and we apologize to all Mac users, both for releasing with this vulnerability and for the concern it has caused," Apple said in a statement. "Our customers deserve better. We are auditing our development processes to help prevent this from happening again."

MacOS High Sierra Bug Allows Login As Root With No Password ( 237

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: A trivial-to-exploit flaw in macOS High Sierra, aka macOS 10.13, allows users to gain admin rights, or log in as root, without a password. The security bug is triggered via the authentication dialog box in Apple's operating system, which prompts you for an administrator's username and password when you need to do stuff like configure privacy and network settings. If you type in "root" as the username, leave the password box blank, hit "enter" and then click on unlock a few times, the prompt disappears and, congrats, you now have admin rights. You can do this from the user login screen. The vulnerability effectively allows someone with physical access to the machine to log in, cause extra mischief, install malware, and so on. You should not leave your vulnerable Mac unattended until you can fix the problem. And while obviously this situation is not the end of the world -- it's certainly far from a remote hole or a disk decryption technique -- it's just really, really sad to see megabucks Apple drop the ball like this. Developer Lemi Orhan Ergan was the first to alert the world to the flaw. The Register notes: "If you have a root account enabled and a password for it set, the black password trick will not work. So, keep the account enabled and set a root password right now..."
Desktops (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: What Should A Mac User Know Before Buying a Windows Laptop? 449

New submitter Brentyl writes: Hello Slashdotters, longtime Mac user here faced with a challenge: Our 14-year-old wants a Windows laptop. He will use it for school and life, but the primary reason he wants Windows instead of a MacBook is gaming. I don't need a recommendation on which laptop to buy, but I do need a Windows survival kit. What does a fairly savvy fellow, who is a complete Windows neophyte, need to know? Is the antivirus/firewall in Windows 10 Home sufficient? Are there must-have utilities or programs I need to get? When connecting to my home network, I need to make sure I ____? And so on... Thanks in advance for your insights.

"Maybe It's a Piece of Dust" ( 529

An anonymous reader shares a report: I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer's black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn't respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken -- it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice. "Maybe it's a piece of dust," the Genius had offered. The previous times I'd been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem -- a misbehaving keyboard -- Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn't believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. "Hold on," I said. "If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?"

Traditional PC Sales Continue To Slide ( 223

Sales of traditional PCs continue to decline, although the overall PC market is likely to grow slightly next year. From a report: Traditional PC shipments are forecast to drop by nearly eight percent this year, and another 4.4 percent in 2018, predicts analyst firm Gartner. Which means that, by 2019, 16 million fewer traditional PCs and notebooks will be sold than were shipped this year. However, much of this will be offset by the rise in spending on high-end notebooks like Microsoft's Surface and Apple's MacBook, so that the overall PC market will by 2019 be at pretty much the same level it was last year. Tablets -- defined by Gartner as basic and utility ultramobile devices -- will also decline over the period to 2019.

The Impossible Dream of USB-C ( 350

Marco Arment, a prominent developer best known for co-founding Tumblr, explains things that are still crippling USB-C, despite being around for years and being used in mainstream products. Arment writes: While a wide variety of USB-C dongles are available, most use the same handful of unreliable, mediocre chips inside. Some USB-A dongles make Wi-Fi drop on MacBook Pros. Some USB-A devices don't work properly when adapted to USB-C, or only work in certain ports. Some devices only work when plugged directly into a laptop's precious few USB-C ports, rather than any hubs or dongles. And reliable HDMI output seems nearly impossible in practice. Very few hubs exist to add more USB-C ports, so if you have more than a few peripherals, you can't just replace all of their cables with USB-C versions. You'll need a hub that provides multiple USB-A ports instead, and you'll need to keep your USB-A cables for when you're plugged into the hub -- but also keep USB-C cables or dongles around for everything you might ever need to plug directly into the computer's ports. Hubs with additional USB-C ports might pass Thunderbolt through to them, but usually don't. Sometimes, they add a USB-C port that can only be used for power passthrough. Many hubs with power passthrough have lower wattage limits than a 13-inch or 15-inch laptop needs. Fortunately, USB-C is a great charging standard. Well, it's more of a collection of standards. USB-C devices can charge via the slow old USB rates, but for higher-powered devices or faster charging, that's not enough current.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Puts Desktop Brains in a Laptop Body ( 141

David Pierce, writing for Wired: As Microsoft went to create the Surface Book 2, the company once again tried to bust categories. The result is the most combinatory device Microsoft's made yet. It's a laptop (screens measure 13 or 15 inches; there's a keyboard and trackpad) -- and it's also a tablet (the screen detaches, you can use a pen, everything's touch-friendly), and it's also a desktop. A stupendously powerful one, at that: It runs on Intel's new eighth-generation quad-core processors, in either a Core i5 or Core i7 version. The higher-end models come with Nvidia's GeForce discrete graphics, up to 16 gigs of RAM, and as much as 1 terabyte of solid storage. All that in a fanless body that gets up to 17 hours of battery life, and weighs about 3.5 pounds for the smaller model or 4.2 pounds for the larger. What does all that mean? Microsoft claims the smaller model is three times more powerful than the last Surface Book, and the 15-inch runs five times as fast. Those are meaningless comparisons, but the point holds. This thing screams. More useful are the comparisons to Apple's latest MacBook Pros: Microsoft claims up to 70 percent more battery life, and double the performance of Apple's laptops.

Hackers Can Take Control of Siri and Alexa By Whispering To Them in Frequencies Humans Can't Hear ( 116

Chinese researchers have discovered a vulnerability in voice assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Huawei. It affects every iPhone and Macbook running Siri, any Galaxy phone, any PC running Windows 10, and even Amazon's Alexa assistant. From a report: Using a technique called the DolphinAttack, a team from Zhejiang University translated typical vocal commands into ultrasonic frequencies that are too high for the human ear to hear, but perfectly decipherable by the microphones and software powering our always-on voice assistants. This relatively simple translation process lets them take control of gadgets with just a few words uttered in frequencies none of us can hear. The researchers didn't just activate basic commands like "Hey Siri" or "Okay Google," though. They could also tell an iPhone to "call 1234567890" or tell an iPad to FaceTime the number. They could force a Macbook or a Nexus 7 to open a malicious website. They could order an Amazon Echo to "open the backdoor." Even an Audi Q3 could have its navigation system redirected to a new location. "Inaudible voice commands question the common design assumption that adversaries may at most try to manipulate a [voice assistant] vocally and can be detected by an alert user," the research team writes in a paper just accepted to the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.
Portables (Apple)

'The MacBook Pro's One-Year-Old Signature Feature Touch Bar Has No Future, But Users Are Required To Pay a Premium For It' ( 284

Chuq Von Rospach, a former Apple employee and commentator, has criticized the MacBook-maker to force consumers to pay extra for the Touch Bar -- a signature feature of the last year's MacBook Pro lineup -- in order to have the highest-end MacBook Pro currently available. He writes: The current [MacBook Pro] line forces users to pay for the Touch Bar on the higher end devices whether they want it or not, and that's a cost users shouldn't need to pay for a niche technology without a future. So Apple needs to either roll the Touch Bar out to the entire line and convince us we want it, or roll it back and offer more laptop options without it. [...] So what's the future of the Touch Bar? I don't know. I'm not sure Apple does, either. I was fascinated that when Apple released the iMacs earlier this year not one word was mentioned about the Touch Bar or Touch ID and support for them via an updated keyboard or trackpad was nowhere to be found. I'm taking that as an indication that after the lackluster response to this with the laptop releases, they've gone back to the drawing board a bit before rolling it out further.

Safari Should Display Favicons in Its Tabs ( 189

Favicon -- or its lack thereof, to be precise -- has remained one of the longest running issues Safari users have complained about. For those of you who don't use Safari, just have a look at this mess I had earlier today when I was using Safari on a MacBook. There's no way I can just have a look at the tabs and make any sense of them. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don't have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs. With many tabs open, there's really nothing subjective about it: Chrome's tabs are more usable because they show favicons. [...] Once Safari gets to a dozen or so tabs in a window, the left-most tabs are literally unidentifiable because they don't even show a single character of the tab title. They're just blank. I, as a decade-plus-long dedicated Safari user, am jealous of the usability and visual clarity of Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open. And I can see why dedicated Chrome users would consider Safari's tab design a non-starter to switching. I don't know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari's tabs, but I can only presume that it's because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari's toolbar area. [...] And it's highly debatable whether Safari's existing no-favicon tabs actually do look better. The feedback I've heard from Chrome users who won't even try Safari because it doesn't show favicons isn't just from developers -- it's from designers too. To me, the argument that Safari's tab bar should remain text-only is like arguing that MacOS should change its Command-Tab switcher and Dock from showing icons to showing only the names of applications. The Mac has been famous ever since 1984 for placing more visual significance on icons than on names. The Mac attracts visual thinkers and its design encourages visual thinking. So I think Safari's text-only tab bar isn't just wrong in general, it's particularly wrong on the Mac.

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