Aussie Mac Zone ~ Episode 229

Show 229 – March 19, 2018

Run Sheet ~ Only Michael Due to a OBS issue in the studio

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Our Aussie Apple Rambling

Story 1

Bloomberg: Apple secretly building its own MicroLED screens for future devices, starting with Apple Watch

A new report from Bloomberg this evening says that Apple is “designing and producing its own device displays,” which is a first for the company. Citing people familiar with the situation, the report explains that Apple using a secret manufacturing facility near its headquarters in California…

Specifically, the report says that Apple is making “a significant investment” in the development of MicroLED displays. These screens use newer light-emitting compounds that make them brighter, thinner, and less power-intense than the current OLED displays.

Apple’s work on these displays hasn’t gone entirely smoothly, though. Bloomberg says Apple almost “killed the project a year or so ago,” though things have seemingly improved recently, with engineers making progress and the technology being in the “advanced stage.”

Bloomberg: Apple secretly building its own MicroLED screens for future devices, starting with Apple Watch


Story 2

Apple announces spring event for March 27

Apple is sending out invitations to an education event on March 27. Using the tagline ‘Let’s take a field trip,’ Apple says that the event will focus on ‘creative new ideas for teachers and students’ …

Two invitations, have been seen, so far, in the USA and UK, both inviting people to an event taking place at a high school in Chicago.

The invitation contains no details of either the content or format of the event. It takes place at Lane Tech college prep high school, which is home to students from the 7th grade through to college prep. The school has a strong tech focus


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Story 3

New hardware marketplace to allow SMEs to sell to Australian government

A focus on the smaller players could give them a chance against the existing tech giant-dominated government service delivery model.

The Australian government announced in August last year it was going to be shaking up the way it procures technology services, offering startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a larger portion of Canberra’s technology spend.

Making good on the promise, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has announced its intention to launch a new Hardware Marketplace, slated as a place for government to buy products like monitors, tablets, PCs, servers, and technical services from the smaller vendors, in a space usually reserved for the technology heavyweights.

“This flexibility means government can keep up with new technologies as they develop. It also means new startups with a great product to offer can sell it to government faster, instead of waiting a long time for a panel to open for new sellers,” the DTA said.

“The marketplace will be a one-stop-shop so government agencies only need to go to one place for computer hardware, instead of the three or more panels which previously covered these products.”


Story 4

NSW extends contactless travel to American Express cardholders

Visa and American Express customers can use their card to ‘tap on and off’ Sydney Ferries and the L1 Dulwich Hill Light Rail in lieu of an Opal card.

The New South Wales government has extended the payment options available to commuters using public transport in Sydney, announcing the acceptance of Visa, Mastercard, and American Express on some services.

Transport for NSW will now allow commuters to “tap on and off” using their Mastercard on all Sydney Ferry and light rail services, while Visa and American Express card or mobile wallet payments will be accepted for travel on the L1 Dulwich Hill Light Rail and on Sydney Ferry services, in lieu of using an Opal card.

The Opal card requires commuters to “tap on” when beginning a trip via bus, train, light rail, and ferry, and “tap off” when they reach their final destination on services operating in Sydney and many of its suburbs.

“In NSW we know transport is no longer just about infrastructure but also about embracing technology to provide the best services possible for our customers,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said on Monday.

“The integration of contactless transport payments into the Opal ticketing system makes the purchasing of one-off fares quick, easy, and seamless, providing choice and convenience to customers.”


Story 5

Australia’s Defence department bans messaging app WeChat

Last month, U.S. intelligence agencies weren’t so into the idea of people using Chinese phones.

The heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA told a Senate committee in February they didn’t recommend products or services by China’s Huawei or ZTE be used by Americans, concerned about companies or entities becoming “beholden to foreign governments.”

Now, in Australia, that suspicion has seemingly extended to Chinese apps. Messaging platform WeChat has reportedly been banned from being installed on phones belonging to the country’s Department of Defence, according to the Australian Financial Review.

“Defence does not provide or support the use of unauthorised software, including the WeChat social media application, on Defence mobile devices,” a Defence spokesperson told the newspaper. Limited use of Facebook is reportedly allowed though.

It comes amid concerns of heightened Chinese espionage activities within the country, although Defence didn’t specify why it banned WeChat, owned by internet company Tencent. Mashable has contacted the department for comment.

Back in December, India’s Defence Ministry instructed its armed forces to uninstall WeChat, one of 42 apps it listed, after reporting a number of the apps had “spyware or other malicious ware.”


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Story 6

Calendar app in Mac App Store mines cryptocurrency in the background

A calendar app in the Mac App Store has been mining cryptocurrency in the background in exchange for giving users additional features — and an option to opt out of mining has been broken. So far, Apple has not taken the scheduling app Calendar 2 down, even after Ars Technica informed the company that Calendar 2 has been mining virtual currency.

The app is supposed to be a buffed-up version of Apple’s Calendar app in macOS, but recently, its developer, Qbix, added extra code to mine monero, a digital coin launched in April 2014 and meant to be a more anonymous version of bitcoin, as you can’t view transactions on a public ledger. That makes Calendar 2 something of a rarity in the App Store — there don’t appear to be other mining apps in the store, let alone apps that use mining as a way to get additional value from non-paying users.

The miner runs in exchange for letting the users access more premium features. Users can opt out by keeping premium features off or paying for them through the App Store.

However, as Ars noted, the app had a bug that kept the miner running, even if users tried to opt out, and a second bug that caused the miner to consume more resources than originally intended. A user noted on Twitter that the app “ate 200% CPU until I found it and killed it. I didn’t expect a miner infection from an App Store vendor. Wow.” The app’s current rating is two out of five in the App Store, with many recent reviews docking stars because of the unwanted mining. Qbix stated that it was in the middle of publishing a fix for the bugs.

Mining programs tend to favor Monero over Bitcoin or Ethereum, as Monero has a more CPU-friendly hashing algorithm. Salon’s website asks readers if they would like to let the media outlet mine monero through readers’ unused computing power, as an alternative to looking at ads. Additionally, Monero has also become an easy target for a spate of malicious mining programs that have emerged in recent months, according to a report from Symantec in December.

While Apple doesn’t have any rules expressly banning mining apps, it wouldn’t be surprising for the company to remove such apps, given this sentence in the guidelines: “Apps should not rapidly drain battery, generate excessive heat, or put unnecessary strain on device resources.” We’ve reached out to Apple for comment.

Update March 13th, 8:35AM ET: Calendar 2 has been pulled from the Mac App Store since the time of publication. It’s not clear if this was done by its developer, Qbix, or by Apple. After publication, Qbix said it would remove the miner from its app.



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