Source code for Apple’s historic Lisa OS to be made available in 2018

(credit: Mac History)

If you’ve ever been curious to test out Apple’s original Lisa operating system, you’ll get the chance to do so next year using the original source code. Al Kossow, a software curator for the Computer History Museum, announced that the source code for Apple’s first operating system with a graphical user interface has been recovered and is currently with Apple for review. After the tech giant reviews it, the Computer History Museum will make the source code available to all sometime in 2018.

The original Lisa computer, named after Jobs’ eldest daughter, came out in 1983 and was generally considered to be a flop. It was a hard device for consumers to embrace because, at the time, it cost approximately $ 10,000. However, its operating system laid the foundation for the macOS we’re familiar with today.

Jobs reportedly got the idea for the Lisa OS after seeing visual interfaces with mouse support during a visit to Xerox PARC. Jobs took what he saw and made his own version of it—the Lisa operating system featuring a GUI, mouse support, and a file system. While the Lisa computer wasn’t as popular as Jobs hoped it would be, its operating system was a blueprint for the many graphic OSes available today.

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Apple to pay $38 billion in US taxes on overseas cash

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Apple announced on Wednesday that it would pay $ 38 billion in taxes to the federal government as it brings cash earned overseas into the United States. The big payment is the result of President Donald Trump’s tax cut bill, passed last month, which created a new, special tax rate for overseas cash.

Apple is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of that provision. The American company had around $ 250 billion in cash and other short-term assets held by overseas affiliates. Under previous tax law, Apple would have had to pay a tax of 35 percent in order to bring overseas cash back to the United States. Under the new law, that rate is cut to 15.5 percent, saving Apple tens of billions of dollars compared to what it would have paid to bring the cash home in 2017.

Apple didn’t have a choice about this. Under the new tax bill, all overseas cash is subject to a one-time 15.5 percent tax whether Apple leaves it overseas or moves it to the United States.

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Apple will give users the option to control their own battery’s destiny

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Apple announced big economic plans yesterday, but CEO Tim Cook also touched upon what the company will do in the future to address the grievances brought by users about its recent iPhone performance-slowing controversy. In an interview with ABC News, Cook said that new software updates will allow users with older iPhones to turn off the power management feature that intentionally slows down device performance.

“We will tell someone we’re reducing your performance by some amount in order to not have an unexpected restart,” Cook said. “And if you don’t want it, you can turn it off.”

Cook’s disclaimer is that Apple doesn’t recommend turning off this feature, as the company initially came out with it to stop unexpected shut-downs. At the end of 2017, Apple admitted to intentionally slowing down iPhone performance to prevent shut-downs related to the device’s deteriorating battery health. Users had suspected Apple’s practice for quite some time, and despite Apple’s reasoning, many users were furious and a number of class-action lawsuits have been filed against the company.

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Apple rejects net neutrality testing app, says it offers “no benefits to users”

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An iPhone application that attempts to detect whether ISPs are throttling online services was rejected by Apple when its developer tried to get it into the company’s App Store.

David Choffnes, a Northeastern University professor who researches distributed systems and networking, built an app called “Wehe” that tests the speeds of YouTube, Amazon, NBCSports, Netflix, Skype, Spotify, and Vimeo. Abnormally low speed results for one or more of those services might, in theory, provide evidence that your mobile carrier is throttling a service.

But as Motherboard reported today, Apple refused to let the app into the iPhone App Store, telling him that “your app has no direct benefits to the user.” Motherboard was able to test a beta version of the app using Apple’s TestFlight platform and provided this screenshot of the application in action:

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Apple’s response to battery controversy: Have a new one for $29


The past few weeks have been tumultuous for Apple ever since the company confirmed it slows down iPhones as their batteries age. In a message posted to Apple’s website today, the company formally apologized to customers while explaining how iPhone batteries age, what Apple has already done to prevent unexpected device shutdowns, and what the company will do to address customer concerns.

“We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize,” the letter reads. “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making. First and foremost, we have never—and would never—do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

The final part of the message is the most important for customers, as it lays out Apple’s plans to help them replace old iPhone batteries and better understand their device’s battery performance. The biggest change is that Apple will lower the cost of out-of-warranty battery replacements for iPhone 6 models and later from $ 79 to $ 29—a discount of more than 60 percent. The program will start in late January and will be available worldwide through December 2018.

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Your old iPhone battery can be replaced even if it passes Genius Bar test

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Last week, Apple apologized for its iPhone performance slowdown “misunderstanding” and offered select iPhone users a discounted price on battery replacements. However, it was unclear if passing a Genius Bar diagnostic test would disqualify a device from getting that affordable battery replacement. According to a report by MacRumors, Apple will replace batteries in iPhone 6 smartphones and later models even if they pass Apple’s own diagnostic test.

The news was first spotted by the French website iGeneration, which reported that an internal Apple Store memo said to replace batteries in these iPhones no matter if Apple’s diagnostic test shows the battery can retain less than 80 percent of its original capacity or not. That appears to mean that even if your iPhone 6 or later has a battery that’s deemed healthy by Apple’s test, you can still get a battery replacement at the reduced rate. Apple lowered the battery replacement cost from $ 79 to $ 29, even for out-of-warranty devices.

This welcome clarification comes just days after Apple began offering battery replacements earlier than expected. Initially, the company said the program would roll out starting in late January, but Apple began offering discounted battery replacements just a couple of days ago. Apple said that initial supplies may be limited, though, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for your local Apple Store to have a replacement battery for your iPhone.

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Meltdown and Spectre: Here’s what Intel, Apple, Microsoft, others are doing about it

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The Meltdown and Spectre flaws—two related vulnerabilities that enable a wide range of information disclosure from every mainstream processor, with particularly severe flaws for Intel and some ARM chips—were originally revealed privately to chip companies, operating system developers, and cloud computing providers. That private disclosure was scheduled to become public some time next week, enabling these companies to develop (and, in the case of the cloud companies, deploy) suitable patches, workarounds, and mitigations.

With researchers figuring out one of the flaws ahead of that planned reveal, that schedule was abruptly brought forward, and the pair of vulnerabilities was publicly disclosed on Wednesday, prompting a rather disorderly set of responses from the companies involved.

There are three main groups of companies responding to the Meltdown and Spectre pair: processor companies, operating system companies, and cloud providers. Their reactions have been quite varied.

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Alexa could live in headphones, wearables thanks to new developer kit

The next frontier for Amazon’s Alexa may be the devices you keep on your person most of the time. Amazon announced the new Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit today, which will allow manufacturers to more easily integrate the company’s voice assistant into headphones, smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other small devices. The kit is currently in developer preview, and partner companies including Bose, Jabra, and iHome are already testing it out.

The developer kit lessens the development load that manufacturers have to take on when making an Alexa-friendly accessory. Instead of using all of the code necessary to build Alexa into a device like a home speaker, manufacturers rely on only some of the code as well as Bluetooth connectivity to the Alexa mobile app. Headphones, wearables, and other Bluetooth-audio capable devices made with the Mobile Accessory Kit can connect to the Alexa mobile app on the device with which they are paired and access the Alexa Voice Service from the app.

That means users can speak to these accessories, asking Alexa to perform various tasks like stream media, control smart home devices, and provide news and weather updates. Amazon also claims users can call upon Alexa “without worrying about Wi-Fi connectivity,” but Alexa will require connection to access certain skills and pieces of information. In those cases, the Alexa app would use the device’s LTE data.

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iOS and macOS updates available now address Spectre vulnerabilities

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Meltdown and Spectre security risks affecting nearly every modern processor came to light last week, and now Apple has released a pair of software updates to address the Spectre vulnerability. iOS 11.2.2 and macOS High Sierra 10.13.2, while sparse in detail, are both now available for free on compatible devices.

iOS 11.2.2 for iPhone and iPad contains security fixes that aren’t fully fleshed out, but Apple does say that they affect Safari and Webkit to “mitigate the effects of Spectre.” Apple claims the Meltdown vulnerability was addressed in iOS 11.2, and since there isn’t a hardware fix for Spectre, the company issued this over-the-air update to all compatible devices. iOS 11.2.2 is available for iPhone 5s and later, iPad Air and later, and iPod touch 6th generation. It can be downloaded by navigating to Settings > General > Software Update.

A supplemental update in macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 is available today that uses similar Safari work-arounds to address the Spectre vulnerability. Apple also previously addressed Meltdown in the first update of macOS High Sierra 10.13.2. All compatible machines can download the supplemental update for free from the Mac App Store, and a Safari 11.0.2 update is available for Macs running OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 and macOS Sierra 10.12.6. The Safari update also addresses Spectre risks.

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Powermat gives in to Qi, moves wireless charging closer to uniformity

Enlarge / The Qi-compatible Nexus 5 on the Nexus Wireless Charger. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Wireless charging company Powermat has joined the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) in a move that looks to further unify wireless charging tech behind the popular Qi standard.

Powermat—which has long pushed the PMA wireless charging standard as Qi’s primary competitor—quietly announced the move last week. The company is a leading player in the AirFuel Alliance, a wireless charging standards body that formed in 2015 with the merger of two other organizations, the Alliance for Wireless Power and the Power Matters Association. Powermat has largely stood opposite Qi and the WPC.

Qi has won the lion’s share of the wireless charging market in recent years, though. Its dominance came to a head last fall after Apple threw its weight behind the standard with its new iPhone X and iPhone 8 phones. This more-or-less sealed Powermat’s fate and led stores like Starbucks—which had previously supported Powermat over Qi through its in-store wireless charging pads—to update its chargers to support both formats.

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