Tag Archives: Apple

Apple Commits $2.5 Billion to Combat California Housing Crisis



Apple announced a comprehensive $2.5 billion plan to help address the housing availability and affordability crisis in California. The funding commitment to California is expected to take approximately two years to be fully utilized depending on the availability of projects.

California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted: “The cost of housing in California is the defining concern for millions of families. It can only be fixed by building more housing. This partnership with the state of California will do just that – thank you Apple for stepping up.”

The $2.5 Billion Apple Commitment includes
:

$1 billion affordable housing investment fund: The $1 billion commitment to the state of California is a first-of-its-kind affordable housing fund that will provide the state and others with an open line of credit to develop and build additional new, very low-to moderate-income housing faster and at a lower cost.

$1 billion first time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund: Working with the state, this first-time homebuyer fund will provide aspiring homebuyers with financing and down payment assistance. Apple and the state will explore strategies to increase access to first-time homeownership opportunities for essential service personnel, school employees, and veterans.

$300 million Apple-owned land will be available for affordable housing: Apple intends to make available land it owns in San Jose worth approximately $300 million for the development of new affordable housing.

$150 million Bay Area housing fund: In a public-private partnership, Apple is launching a new $150 affordable housing fund with partners including Housing Trust Silicon Valley to support new affordable housing projects. The fund will consist of long-term forgivable loans and grants.

$50 million to support vulnerable populations: Apple will donate $50 million to support Destination: Home’s efforts to address homelessness in Silicon Valley. Apple will focus its contribution on driving systemic change across the many factors affecting homelessness. Apple will also be identifying similar efforts in Northern and Southern California focusing on strategies that both end and prevent homelessness.

When my husband and I moved to California years ago, we learned how difficult it was to find affordable housing. It is clear that California has a huge problem with this issue, and I suspect the cost of housing is one factor that leads to homelessness. My hope is that Apple’s commitment will improve the lives of people who are struggling.


Apple Released macOS Catalina



Apple has released macOS Catalina today. There are some changes that people should be aware of before installing it. MacRumors put together an extremely informative blog post with tons of details. I will highlight just a few of them here.

Apple is removing iTunes. Personally, I think iTunes has always been a bit strange, so I won’t miss it when it is gone. I’ve had the misfortune of Apple losing most of my music and podcasts whenever there was an update. As such, I stopped using iTunes.

Apple is replacing iTunes with Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. Device management capabilities that used to be housed in iTunes will be available through Finder.

Apple Music is using the former iTunes logo, a music note on a field of white. I wonder if this will confuse some people. MacRumors says Apple Music will house music you’ve purchased, imported, or acquired through Apple Music. Apple says Apple Music has been designed for Apple Music subscribers, but older features remain for for non-subscribers.

Apple Podcasts replaces the podcast functionality that was available in earlier versions of macOS. The new Apple TV app includes a “Watch Now” feature like on iOS and Apple TV, which offers personalized recommendations. You can start watching a show on any of your Apple devices, and pick it up on another device now that the TV app is available on the Mac.

Another important thing to know is that 32-bit apps are no longer able to run in macOS Catalina. MacRumors said that macOS Catalina warns when you install it that some apps are not going to work, letting you know which apps will need to be replaced. Before you install macOS Catalina, you may want to find out if it will prevent you from using 32-bit apps that you need for work.


Apple Announced Apple Watch Series 5



Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 5. Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS) is available to order in 41 countries and regions and Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular) is available to order in 22 countries and regions. Both models will be available in stores starting on Friday, September 20, 2019.

Apple Watch Series 5 has an Always-On Retina display that never sleeps. It makes it easy for people to see the time and other information without raising or tapping the display. Apple says the watch face has been carefully optimized for the new display and to preserve battery life, the screen intelligently dims when a user’s wrist is down and returns to full brightness with a raise or a tap. The Apple Watch Series 5 offers “all-day 18-hour battery life”.

It also has a built-in compass and updated Maps app to allow users to see which way they are facing. The new Compass app shows incline, latitude, longitude and current elevation. I can see where this could be useful for people who are traveling or sightseeing.

One of the most useful features, in my opinion, is International Emergency Calling. Users with cellular models of Apple Watch Series 5 can complete international calls to emergency services, regardless of where the device was originally purchased or if the cellular plan has been activated. It works with fail detection, if enabled, to automatically place an emergency call if Apple Watch senses the user has taken a hard fall and remains motionless for about a minute.

Another useful feature will come with watchOS 6, (which will be available for Apple Watch Series 3 and later on September 19, and on Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 later this fall), is a Cycle Tracker. It gives customers the ability to log important information related to their menstrual cycles, see predicted timing for their next period and fertile windows using the convenience of Apple Watch. I’m hoping Apple makes this information extremely private, because some people who menstruate could be put in danger if their data was revealed.

There is also a Noise app that helps users understand the ambient sound levels in environments such as concerts and sporting events that could negatively impact hearing. I don’t think most people fully understand how loud those events can be until they are walking out after it is over with ringing ears. Perhaps this app can help save people’s hearing by pointing out the dangerously loud noise.

Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS) starts at $399 (US) and Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular) starts at $499. The Series 3 (GPS) with built-in GPS, optical heart rate sensor and water resistance starts at a new low price of $199 and Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) is $299.


Google, Mozilla, and Apple Block Kazakhstan’s Root Certificate



Three big browser makers are now blocking the use of a root certificate that Kazakhstan’s government had used to intercept internet traffic. According to Ars Technica, Khazakhstan reportedly said it halted the use of the certificate. Ars Technica reported that the actions taken by Google, Mozilla, and Apple could protect users who already installed it or prevent future use of the certificate by Kazakstan’s government.

Apple told Ars Technica that it is blocking the ability to use the certificate to intercept internet traffic.

Mozilla posted on The Mozilla Blog “Today, Mozilla and Google took action to protect the online security and privacy of individuals in Kazakhstan. Together, the companies deployed technical solutions within Firefox and Chrome to block the Kazakhstan government’s ability to intercept internet traffic within the country.”

The response comes after credible reports that internet service providers in Kazakhstan have required people in the country to download and install a government-issued certificate on all devices and in every browser in order to access the internet. This certificate is not trusted by either of the companies, and once installed, allowed the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords. This targeted people visiting popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, among others.

Google posted information on its Google Security Blog. Part of that blog post says: “In response to recent actions by the Kazakhstan government, Chrome, along with other browsers, has taken steps to protect users from the interception or modification of TLS connections made to websites.”

It continues: “Chrome will be blocking the certificate the Kazakhstan government required users to install. The blog post has more specific details about that certificate.

It is good that these companies, all of whom make browsers, are taking a stand against government intrusion into people’s privacy. I hope that these companies will take the same action whenever another government chooses to spy on its own people in an effort to sneakily discover what those people do online.


Apple’s WebKit Announces Tracking Prevention Policy



Apple has published their WebKit Tracking Prevention Policy. It describes the web tracking practices that WebKit believes, as a matter of policy, should be prevented by default by web browsers. WebKit’s policy was inspired by Mozilla’s anti-tracking policy.

These practices are harmful to users because they infringe on a user’s privacy without giving users the ability to identify, understand, consent to, or control them.

WebKit’s current anti-tracking mitigations are applied universally to all websites, or based on algorithmic, on-device classification.

WebKit will do its best to prevent all covert tracking, and all cross-site tracking (even when it’s not covert). These goals apply to a several types of tracking mentioned in the policy, including: cross-site tracking, stateful tracking, covert stateful tracking, navigational tracking, fingerprinting or stateless tracking, and covert tracking (which includes covert stateful tracking, fingerprinting, or other methods that are hidden from user visibility and control).

If a particular tracking technique cannot be completely prevented without undue user harm, WebKit will limit the capability of using the technique. If even limiting the capability of a technique is not possible without undue user harm, WebKit will ask for the user’s informed consent to potential tracking.

Interestingly, WebKit considers logging in to multiple first party websites or apps using the same account to be implied consent to identifying the users as having the same identity in these multiple places. WebKit believes that such logins should require a user action and be noticeable by the users, not be invisible or hidden.

WebKit is taking policy circumvention seriously. They will treat circumvention of shipping anti-tracking measures with the same exploitation of security vulnerabilities.

There may be some unintended impact of the policy, in which certain practices are inadvertently disrupted. Some of these include:

  • Funding websites using targeted or personalized advertising
  • Measuring the effectiveness of advertising
  • “Like” buttons, federated comments, or other social widgets
  • Analytics in the scope of a single website
  • Audience measurement

WebKit is the source engine that underpins internet browsers, including Apple’s Safari browser. If I’m understanding this correctly, that means that Safari (and potentially other browsers) will have WebKit’s Tracking Prevention Policy “baked in”. I wonder if the policy will be effective enough that it will replace the use of ad blockers.


Apple is Locking iPhone Batteries at the Factory



Being able to see the health of the battery on your iPhone is really important. It helps you know when that battery needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, Apple is reportedly doing some shenanigans that will prevent iPhone users from making that assessment – if they swapped their battery with one that is not from Apple.

This news comes from iFixit, who reported: “By activating a dormant software lock on their newest iPhones, Apple is effectively announcing a drastic new policy: only Apple can go in iPhones, and only they can install them.”

If you replace the battery in the newest iPhones, a message indicating you need to service your battery appears in Settings >Battery, next to Battery Health. The “Service” message is normally an indication that the battery is degraded and needs to be replaced. The message still shows up when you put in a brand new battery, however. Here’s the bigger problem: our lab tests confirmed that even when you swap in a genuine Apple battery, the phone will still display the “Service” message.

In short, if you want to replace the battery on a newer iPhone, Apple wants you to take it to an Apple Genius or an Apple Authorized Service Provider. The company doesn’t want you to change the battery yourself, and really doesn’t want you to swap it with a battery that isn’t from Apple.

The iFixit article describes this practice as a “user-hostile choice”, and rightfully so. In my opinion, the false “Service” message is designed to influence iPhone users to spend money on Apple’s batteries, instead of purchasing one from another company that is less expensive. The policy also runs over a consumer’s Right to Repair a product that they have purchased and own.


Amazon Allows You to Disable Human Review of Recordings



Amazon is now allowing people who use Alexa to opt-out of human review of their voice recordings, Bloomberg has reported. This comes after a researcher revealed that some of Google’s Assistant recordings had been listened to by human contractors, and people started to become concerned about what other voice activated assistants do with recorded speech.

A new policy took effect Friday that allows customers, through an option in the settings menu of the Alexa smartphone app, to remove their recordings from a pool that could be analyzed by Amazon employees and contract workers, a spokesman for the Seattle company said. It follows similar moves by Apple, Inc., and Google.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s decision to let Alexa users opt-out of human review of their recordings follows criticism that the program violated customers’ privacy. Amazon says the Alexa app will now include a disclaimer in the settings menu that acknowledges that people might review recordings through Alexa. Bloomberg explains how to disable that and opt-out of human review.

The Guardian reported that Apple has suspended its practice of having human contractors listen to users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them. That decision came after a Guardian report that revealed that Apple’s contractors “regularly” hear confidential and private information while carrying out the grading process. The bulk of the confidential information was recorded through accidental triggers of the Siri assistant.

Google posted on The Keyword that it has provided tools for users to manage and control the data in their Google account. You can turn off storing audio data to your Google account completely, or choose to auto-delete data after every 3 months or 18 months.