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  • A look at the iPad-specific features in iOS 12

    Apple mostly touted the benefits of iOS 12 on the iPhone during the two-hour WWDC keynote, but that doesn't mean the iPad was overlooked. We've found 24 iPad-specific features that you may have missed.

    iPad Pro iOS 12

    One of the most talked about areas for the iPad was the new iPhone X inspired gestures including accessing the app switcher, invoking Control Center, jumping between apps, and going to the Home screen.

    Photographers are also going to love the improvements to the photo import process, which has remained largely unchanged for years.

    Watch the AppleInsider deep-dive video to see all the changes for yourself.

    • Redesigned status bar with space in the center

    • Date included in iPad Status Bar

    • Swipe up to go to Home screen

    • Swipe to go Home from the Lock Screen

    • Swipe up to hold to access app switcher

    • Swipe down on top right to access Control Center

    • Control Center removed from App Switcher

    • Quick switch between apps

    • New Stocks app

    • New Voice Memos app

    • News has redesign

    • Books has redesign (and new name)

    • Updated Screen Recording Interface

    • Trackpad cursor mode by holding on space bar

    • Photo import and manage RAW photos on your iPhone and iPad and edit on your iPad Pro

    • Photo import can show as an overlay above your other apps

    • Photo import location can be changed

    • During import, will sort photos that have already been added and put into a different section

    • During import, progress circle is displayed. Tapping it gives you a counter

    • Preview full-screen photos

    • Improved import speed (especially with USB 3.0 reader)

    • Photo counter and storage amount are displayed on the top right

    • Context selection on second spotlight invocation using Smart Keyboard (or others)

    • Editing camera photos options in Messages app, no effects

    Dig deeper into iOS 12 with the AppleInsider roundup video highlighting well over 150 changes.
    tallest skil
  • Review: Amazon's Echo Spot is a cool device, but needs to do more with its screen

    The Echo Spot is undeniably a cool product, but without YouTube it's hard to justify over a regular Echo, except for people with security cameras or those wanting the world's best alarm clock.

    Amazon Echo Spot

    When the first-generation Echo was announced in 2014, I -- and a lot of other people, I imagine -- thought it was an overly ambitious device. It was hard to imagine AI being advanced enough that you could interact with a computer using only your voice. Cut to 2018 though and smartspeakers have not only proliferated, but come full circle, to the point that touchscreens are being added to Echo line to enhance their voice functionality, instead of the other way around.

    In most respects the Spot is like any other Echo. Voice commands that work with a standard model will work here, such as alarms, timers, traffic, flash briefings, music playback, and smarthome control. You can also ask general questions, even if Alexa's knowledgebase isn't as deep as Google Assistant's, and doesn't provide Web listings like Siri.

    You can push audio from an iPhone or iPad app to an Echo, such as when Alexa refuses to understand foreign artist and song names on Spotify. Multi-Echo audio can be set up to span a home or better fill a room.

    The speaker's distinguishing trait of course is its round, 2.5-inch touchscreen, which expands possibilities. Typically you'll just see the time, local weather, and a rotating series of "cards" with things like headlines and Alexa commands to try. Those Alexa suggestions can be handy, since even if you already own an Echo you might be a little bewildered by your new options.

    Indeed we found the Spot a little more complicated to set up than a regular Echo, despite already having a number of settings and services configured thanks to previous models. It's not just a matter of finding the right brightness level, or choosing from preset or custom wallpapers -- there are also multiple clockfaces, as well as video-enabled skills, flash briefings, drop-ins, and calls, the latter being supported on the Spot, Echo Show, and the iPhone and iPad's Alexa app.

    Right away we should address the privacy concerns some people are bound to have, as the Echo Spot has a small camera above the screen. While worries about the Echo line can be overblown, it's understandable to be nervous about people dropping in on a camera feed unannounced. By default, thankfully, the feature is restricted to authorized contacts only. You can also limit it to devices in the same household, or turn it off entirely. Settings will moreover let you disable the camera, though this breaks auto-brightness.

    Amazon Alexa app on iPhone

    I suspect a lot of people are changing these options (or using a piece of tape) because of where they probably sit their Spot: the bedroom. Its size and screen are perfect for a nightstand, as are a lot of its functions, but the last thing most people want is for friends and family to see them dishevelled or naked.

    Key features (in bed)

    What makes its features great for the bedroom? On a simple level, there's always-on time, weather, and calendar/reminder notifications. Many of us are so accustomed to prodding our phones to check these things that the convenience is a novelty.

    Amazon Echo Spot

    I also found it nice to be able to watch the news while resting, though there's a limited number of video-compatible briefing sources (more on this later).

    Above all, voice turns out to be wonderful for controlling alarm functions. You can not only set a standard alarm trigger -- including some celebrity voices, such as Missy Elliott -- but ask to be woken up to a specific song, station, or playlist on services including Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, TuneIn, SiriusXM, and iHeartRadio. No Apple Music sadly, but that's unsurprising.

    As an example, I asked our Spot to wake me up to the local NPR affiliate via TuneIn at 6 a.m. every weekday. Like that, I had a work schedule ready to go.

    Amazon Alexa app on iPhone

    Homeowners with Alexa-compatible security cameras -- such as August's Doorbell Cam Pro, Netgear's Arlos, and Logitech's HomeKit-ready Circle 2 -- will enjoy the privilege of being able to able to tune into live views. I did find the Spot slow to load feeds in some cases, mainly with the Arlo Baby.

    One downside to putting a Spot in a bedroom is that it can take some time to create and tweak automation that works for you and/or your partner. I had to create routines that would change the volume at particular times of day, for example, and for whatever reason you can't make an Echo stop playing music with a multi-action routine, which meant having to tell the Spot to stop playing music and shut off lights using two separate commands.

    Amazon Alexa app on iPhone

    Sound quality, and video redux

    As a speaker the Spot merely sounds alright. It's far better than the tinny Echo Dot, yet comparable to a second-gen cylinder Echo, which is to say it has some bass and reasonable clarity, but won't wow you with its power or fidelity. On its own it's best for radio, podcasts, or playing that song that just won't get out of your head -- audiophiles will want to connect an external speaker via Bluetooth or 3.5mm, or maybe jump straight to the Alexa-ready Sonos One, which is also getting AirPlay 2 compatibility in July.

    The One of course lacks any display, but here's the thing: apart from serving up the time, weather, and alerts, the Spot has a hard time justifying a screen. 2.5 inches isn't much of a viewing experience for video, and even then, there's nothing to watch apart from flash briefings, recipes, security cameras, and Prime Video content. YouTube would be a tremendous boon, but the ongoing tiff beween Amazon and Google makes that unlikely in the near future.

    To be fair, you also can do things like check your calendar, manage shopping lists, or make the previously-mentioned video calls. Along with Prime Video however those are still better suited to the 7-inch screen on the Echo Show.


    Most people can safely skip the Echo Spot if they want and get another smartspeaker. There are better-sounding options, and if you want its alarm functions any screenless Echo will do, so long as you're prepared to say "Alexa, stop" before leaving for work. The Spot lets you dismiss alarms with a touch.

    For all my caveats though, I couldn't help but enjoy it. It sounds good enough, and I never realized how much I missed the convenience of an alarm clock, much less one that could play Spotify or show me if that bump I heard is a burglar or just a family member getting milk. Something I haven't even mentioned yet is that the Spot looks damn sweet wherever you place it, like something from "2001" or a Thievery Corporation album cover.

    The product's only real big sin is its price tag. While it's far cheaper than an Echo Show, $130 is a lot ask for the Spot's capabilities until it supports more video platforms, including YouTube.

    Score: 4 out of 5

    Where to buy

    Amazon is selling the Echo Spot in black or white for $129.99 with free shipping. People buying a pair receive a $40 discount.
  • Apple's new 'Behind the Mac' ad campaign puts spotlight back on creatives

    Apple on Thursday debuted a new ad series detailing the many ways creative professionals use Mac to accomplish their work across a range of very different disciplines, from music to app development. Each story furthers the implication that Mac is a machine that empowers, harkening back to campaigns touting the company's close bonds with those who make.

    Behind the Mac

    The first ads in Apple's "Behind the Mac" series aired on the company's YouTube channel late today. Currently, four videos are live, one of which serves as an introduction to the marketing thrust.

    Each roughly minute-long commercial tells the story of a creative professional or consumer who, in their own words, describes how Mac has enabled them to achieve success. A type of customer testimonial, the ads are expertly crafted to show, not tell, Mac's ability to augment, enhance and facilitate the creative process.

    Popular musician Grimes is among those who rely on Mac to create. In explaining her workflow, she says technological advancements like the MacBook Pro allow her to take music making out of the studio, an important ingredient in her recipe for sonic innovation.

    Grimes starts all new projects on a Mac, Apple says in the ad. She suggests tools like Mac are becoming more affordable and easier to use, meaning anyone can create on a professional level.

    A second short throws a spotlight on Bruce Hall, a legally blind photographer who harnesses Mac's power to produce unique perspectives of the world around him. Through a combination of accessibility features built into Mac's hardware and software, Hall is able to retouch and edit photos in hopes of "expressing the beauty in the world."

    Able to see detail at extremely close distances, Hall says MacBook is "allowing [him] to do things that [he] couldn't do a decade ago."

    Hall's work is part of the permanent collection in the Library of Congress.

    Finally, a third video tells the tale of Peter Karikui, an entrepreneur and app developer who created localized ride-hailing service SafeMotos on his Mac. The service incentivizes safe motorcycle taxi driving in Rwanda through real-time monitoring via iPhone, while riders can select vetted drivers through an eponymous app.

    Karikui touts Mac's capabilities as a coding platform, saying he can create anything he imagines with his MacBook Pro.

    According to iMore, the final campaign will include stories from 12 individuals. When Apple intends to release the next batch of stories is unknown.
  • First details emerge about new batch of Intel processor security flaws [u]

    Details of the first of the second wave of Spectre-style vulnerabilities in Intel processors has been published earlier than expected, with the "LazyFP" vulnerability potentially allowing an attacker to access sensitive data, such as cryptographic keys.

    Part of a secondary collection of processor vulnerabilities discovered following the Spectre and Meltdown disclosures, LazyFP (CVE-2018-3665) was originally found by researchers working for Amazon and Cyberus Technology earlier this year. As part of the process of responsible disclosure, details of the flaw were provided to Intel and other related firms, with a release to the public scheduled after a defined period of time had taken place.

    In May, it was reported Intel had successfully negotiated with researchers to delay the release by a few weeks, but wanted to push it further back, potentially until July. According to Cyberus, the embargo was set to lift in August, but rumors of the vulnerability forced an earlier disclosure, possibly to try and pressure Intel and other vendors to work faster in creating and implementing a solution.

    While the LazyFP whitepaper explaining the issue is being withheld, following a request by Intel, some details about how the vulnerability works have been issued.

    LazyFP centers around the use and abuse of the Floating Point Unit (FPU), and associated registers in the processor. To enable multitasking, the FPU needs to be able to store its state in order to switch between tasks.

    Using what is described by Intel as a "Lazy FP state restore technique," the restoration of an FPU's state can be delayed until an instruction operating on it is executed by a new process. "Eager FPU switching" saves the state on a context switch without any delay, whereas the "lazy" version is an optimized way that accounts for processes that don't use the FPU all the time.

    While the details of the attack are not explained, it is suggested it is based on the manipulation of the FPU and how it holds data while the Lazy FP technique is used.

    According to Intel's advisory report on the vulnerability, it has a severity rating of "moderate," and is described as affecting "Intel Core-based microprocessors," but not specific models. There is also no mention of which operating systems are affected by the vulnerability.

    In a statement to AppleInsider, Intel said the "Lazy FP state restore" is similar to Variant 3a and has already been addressed for "many years" in client and data center products.

    "Our industry partners are working on software updates to address this issue for the remaining impacted environments and we expect these updates to be available in the coming weeks," Intel said. "We continue to believe in coordinated disclosure and we are thankful to Julian Stecklina from Amazon Germany, Thomas Prescher from Cyberus Technology GmbH, Zdenek Sojka from SYSGO AG, and Colin Percival for reporting this issue to us. We strongly encourage others in the industry to adhere to coordinated disclosure as well."

    It is unknown if Apple has been affected by the flaw, but as all current Macs and MacBooks use Intel processors and have done for a number of years, it is still plausible. Apple usually posts details about the vulnerabilities it fixes in its software on its security updates page, but there doesn't appear to be a reference to the latest disclosure as of yet.

    Revealed in January, the Meltdown and Spectre chip flaws in Intel and ARM-based processors allowed the creation of a number of exploits in systems using the components. All Mac and iOS devices were found to be affected by the issue, but Apple advised at the time it had already mitigated the issues for current operating system versions, and was working to develop other fixes.

    The more recent batch of eight similar security flaws were found to be caused by the same design-related issue, and includes four classified by Intel as "high risk." While seven of the eight are thought to have the same impact as Spectre, the eighth is thought to be a greater threat against enterprise systems, in being able to allow attackers to exploit a virtual machine to attack the host.

    Updated with statement from Intel.
  • Apple disallows developers from collecting and sharing Contacts data

    A largely unnoticed change in the revised App Store Guidelines Apple issued during WWDC was a ban on developers building their own databases with collected contact info, and/or sharing them without further permission.

    iPhone X contacts

    Until the revised guidelines were released last week, iOS developers only needed to secure initial permission to harvest contact data, Bloomberg noted on Tuesday. iOS Contacts can contain not just phone numbers and email addresses but other saved information such as photos and birthdays.

    "The address book is the Wild West of data," one anonymous developer explained prior to WWDC. "I am able to instantly transfer all the contacts info into some random server or upload it to Dropbox if I wanted to, the very moment a user says okay to giving contacts permission. Apple doesn't track it, nor do they know where it went."

    Under the new rules, developers are not only barred from creating, sharing, or selling databases based on harvested contact info, but must use contact data explicitly for what they say they will unless they get further permission.

    Likewise, apps can't contact people "except at the explicit initiative of that user on an individualized basis," and must offer message previews.

    Apple will likely have a difficult time enforcing the new policy, but should be able to wield it when it learns of privacy breaches through media reports and security researchers.

    The company has dealt with a number of contact-related privacy issues in the past, most famously a 2012 controversy over Path. The app was found to be uploading contact lists without permission, an incident which ultimately led to some of Apple's tighter restrictions. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued Path, eventually settling out of court, but Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly dressed down Path's CEO in person during the debacle.