Aussie Mac Zone ~ Episode 293

Show 293 – July 15, 2019

Run Sheet ~ Zarn & Michael

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Aussie Tech Heads Domains

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Our Aussie Apple Ramblings

Story 1

Thousands of Android apps can track your phone — even if you deny permissions

The verge reports ~ When you explicitly tell an Android app, “No, you don’t have permission to track my phone,” you probably expect that it won’t have abilities that let it do that. But researchers say that thousands of apps have found ways to cheat Android’s permissions system, phoning home your device’s unique identifier and enough data to potentially reveal your location as well.

Even if you say “no” to one app when it asks for permission to see those personally identifying bits of data, it might not be enough: a second app with permissions you have approved can share those bits with the other one or leave them in shared storage where another app — potentially even a malicious one — can read it. The two apps might not seem related, but researchers say that because they’re built using the same software development kits (SDK), they can access that data, and there’s evidence that the SDK owners are receiving it. It’s like a kid asking for dessert who gets told “no” by one parent, so they ask the other parent.

According to a study presented at PrivacyCon 2019, we are talking about apps from the likes of Samsung and Disney that have been downloaded hundreds of millions of times. They use SDKs built by Chinese search giant Baidu and an analytics firm called Salmonads that could pass your data from one app to another (and to their servers) by storing it locally on your phone first. Researchers saw that some apps using the Baidu SDK may be attempting to quietly obtain this data for their own use.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/8/20686514/android-covert-channel-permissions-data-collection-imei-ssid-location

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Story 2

Zoom security flaw could let websites turn on your Mac’s webcam without permission

The Next Web reports ~ A serious zero-day vulnerability has been disclosed in Zoom video conferencing app on the Mac.

Security researcher Jonathan Leitschuh, in a Medium post, detailed the flaw that could let websites hijack your Mac’s camera and “forcibly” join you to a Zoom call without your permission.

Zoom is one of the most popular cloud-based enterprise communication platforms that offers chat, video and audio conferencing, and options to host webinars and virtual meetings online. About four million of its users are on Mac.

We are using it now!

This effectively means, in order to exploit this vulnerability, all an attacker needs to do is create an invite link through his account on Zoom, embed it on a website as a malicious ad, and just lure the target into visiting that website.

The camera, however, can be turned off if you have ticked the option “Turn off my video when joining a meeting.”

Update on July 10, 9:30 AM IST: In a surprise reversal, Zoom has decided to kill its controversial practice of using a local web server on Macs devices. It has also pushed an emergency patch to remove the server completely, but it acknowledged it didn’t currently have an easy way to uninstall both the client and the server.

Also Apple has pushed out an update that removes the Zoom Webserver.

https://thenextweb.com/security/2019/07/09/zoom-security-flaw-could-let-websites-turn-on-your-macs-webcam-without-permission/

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Story 3 

I L M

Industrial Light and Magic sets up in Sydney. On the news today it was announced ILM would be going t Sydney. Setting up Fox studios while it finds its own premises.

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Story 4

Our Gaming Section  

# With Pokemon GO having just celebrated its third birthday, Sensor Tower has taken a closer look at the mobile game’s financial performance since launch. The big stat: it has earned an estimated $2.65 billion worldwide across the App Store and Google Play. That’s more than both Candy Crush Saga and Clash Royale.

Players in the U.S. are responsible for 35 percent of gross revenue or close to $928 million. The next closest country is Japan, which has spent $779 million or about 29 percent of all in-game spending. Germany is third at 6 percent, or $159 million.

As far as devices go, Android users hold the slight majority at $1.43 million spent from Google Play. $1.22 billion was generated primarily by iPhone users. The last 1.6 percent of iOS revenue stems from those on iPad.

Three years after release, Pokemon GO is still a strong performer. It ranks #8 among all apps for worldwide revenue in June and #9 in Q2. Additionally, the game has grossed $395 million globally so far this year. That’s an increase of 19 percent over the first half of last year.

Pokemon GO players have collectively spent an average of $2.4 million each day since launch and an average of $5 for each of its 521 million downloads.

## Was anyone really asking for a mobile Dr. Mario game? That was my immediate thought when Nintendo announced Dr. Mario World, its new free-to-play mobile title for iOS and Android, which launched on Wednesday July 10th.

Then I realised Nintendo would be crazy not to capitalise on phones for an addictive new puzzler. Super Mario Run, the company’s first mobile game, was a money-making hit. Pokemon Go was a worldwide phenomenon, and even though Nintendo only had a partial stake in it, investors still ate it up. The bigger question, really, is why did it take so long to resurrect Dr. Mario on smartphones?

Now, instead of having viruses fall from the top of the screen, Tetris-style, they rise from the bottom. That seemed like a confusing flip at first, but after playing a few rounds, it was clearly a smart move for ergonomics. We typically cradle phones from the bottom in our palms. It would simply be tough to quickly move objects from the top of the screen with your thumb, especially with larger devices like the iPhone XS Max. Once I got into the flow of Dr. Mario World, dealing with pills rising felt like second nature. And, as you’d imagine, dragging pills with my fingers felt far more fluid than hitting a directional pad. There were a few instances where I wanted a bit more control to nudge pieces into tight spots, but that’s a bit of finesse I’ll probably learn over time.

### Steam Link app from launching in the App Store, it has finally made its debut for both iOS and tvOS devices.

Steam Link gives gamers the chance to play their favourite PC or Steam Machine game on an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, rather than having to haul around a big gaming laptop. In other words, to quote Anchorman‘s Ron Burgundy, this is kind of a big deal!

Steam Link initially revealed that it was coming to iOS and Apple in May 2018. But Apple changed its mind somewhere during the review process. Steam Link was ultimately rejected as the result of supposed “business conflicts.” 

 In the time since then, it seems that Steam has made a few Apple-friendly tweaks. For example, last year after Apple updated its App Store guidelines for remote desktop clients, it agreed to prevent players from making purchases on iPhone and iPad.

Story 5

Apple upgrades

This week Apple upgraded its MacBook Air range by adding True Tone display technology which automatically adjusts the display based on ambient light for more natural colours. So Better and Cheaper, although not a big drop in Australia due to exchange rate.

Also the base model MacBook Pro got the most substantial update, adding a Touch Bar and Touch ID. New processors starting from 1.4GHz quad-core 8th Gen Core i5 chips.

https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2019/7/9/20687402/apple-macbook-pro-air-updates-true-tone-processor-touch-bar

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Story 6

Apple releases firmware security update for discontinued AirPort Express, Extreme, and Time Capsule Base Stations

9TO5Mac reports ~ While Apple’s AirPort lineup has long been discontinued, the company is still supporting the devices with software updates. AirPort Express, Extreme, and Time Capsule Base Stations have received a new firmware security update recently.

https://9to5mac.com/2019/06/20/airport-firmware-security-update/

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Story 7 – pic

40-year-old Apple-1 original manual fetched $11,402 at auction

We’ve seen a couple of Apple-1 computers go up for auction over the last year. While they can fetch large sums, especially if they are functioning, they don’t always come with the original paperwork. Now, an Apple-1 original manual was up for auction. 

The manual does have a circular stain on the first page, which likely reduces the amount it will fetch. Here’s the description of the manual:

Extremely rare original vintage Apple-1 Operation Manual issued by the Apple Computer Company circa 1976, 12 pages, 8.5 x 11, featuring Apple’s original logo on the front cover, designed by third Apple cofounder Ron Wayne and showing Isaac Newton thoughtfully seated beneath a tree, with a shining apple dangling overhead. The Operation Manual features information on getting the system up and running, using the system monitor, and expanding the Apple system, and features an impressive fold-out schematic of the Apple-1 computer. It also has a page headed “6502 Hex Monitor Listing,” for an innovative memory program devised by Steve Wozniak, which is commonly called the “Woz Monitor.” In very good to fine condition, with light irregular grid-shaped toning to the front cover cover [sic], a short tear to the top edge of the front cover, and a light circular stain inside the front cover. This example is not three-hole punched.

https://9to5mac.com/2019/07/08/apple-1-original-manual-auction/

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Story 8 – pic

Apple re-releases Texas Hold’em ahead of App Store’s 11th anniversary

VentureBeat reports ~ Apple’s App Store will celebrate its 11th anniversary later this week, but the company says it’s celebrating the Store’s 10th year by re-releasing a classic iPod and iPhone app: Texas Hold’em (via 9to5Mac). Based on the globally popular poker game, the app gives players the chance to gamble fake money in 10 casino settings — including an Apple garage with classic iMac and iPod posters — for the first time, at zero cost to users.

The original $5 Apple version of Texas Hold’em launched for the fifth-generation iPod in September 2006 before arriving on the iPhone and iPod touch in July 2008, an oddity in that Apple rarely developed its own mobile games. Surprisingly little has changed from the game’s prior releases to the re-release: Apple has reformatted the app to look better on tall, Retina displays, but preserved most of the same background themes, digitised characters, and music from before — albeit with “new characters” and “more challenging gameplay.” The game can be played in portrait or landscape orientations.

MS I’d like to point out as this is the game that we used as our competition game a few weeks ago we are taking responsibility for getting it re-released!!! LOL

https://venturebeat.com/2019/07/08/apple-re-releases-texas-holdem-ahead-of-app-stores-11th-anniversary/

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Story 9

The surprising story behind the Apple Watch’s ECG ability

Engadget writes ~ In February 2016, a small start-up company called AliveCor hired Frank Petterson and Simon Prakash, two Googlers with AI expertise, to transform their business of smartphone electrocardiograms (ECG). The company was struggling. They had developed the first smartphone app capable of single-lead ECG, and, by 2015, they were even able to display the ECG on an Apple Watch. The app had a “wow” factor but otherwise seemed to be of little practical value. The company faced an existential threat, despite extensive venture capital investment.

But Petterson, Prakash, and their team of only three other AI talents had an ambitious, twofold mission. One objective was to develop an algorithm that would passively detect a heart-rhythm disorder, the other to determine the level of potassium in the blood, simply from the ECG captured by the watch. It wasn’t a crazy idea, given whom AliveCor had just hired.

Petterson, AliveCor’s VP of engineering, is like most engineers, a bit introverted. At Google, he headed up YouTube Live, Gaming, and led engineering for Hangouts. He previously had won an Academy Award and nine feature film credits for his design and development software for movies including the :-

Transformers, Star Trek, the Harry Potter series, and Avatar.

Prakash, the VP of products and design, is not as tall as Petterson, without an Academy Award, but is especially handsome, dark-haired, and brown-eyed, looking like he’s right out of a Hollywood movie set. His youthful appearance doesn’t jibe with a track record of twenty years of experience in product development, which included leading the Google Glass design project. He also worked at Apple for nine years, directly involved in the development of the first iPhone and iPad. That background might, in retrospect, be considered ironic.

Meanwhile, a team of more than twenty engineers and computer scientists at Apple, located just six miles away, had its sights set on diagnosing atrial fibrillation via their watch. They benefited from Apple’s seemingly unlimited resources and strong corporate support: the company’s chief operating officer, Jeff Williams, responsible for the Apple Watch development and release, had articulated a strong vision for it as an essential medical device of the future.

At the Mayo Clinic, Paul Friedman and his colleagues were busy studying details of a part of an ECG known as the T wave and how it correlated with blood levels of potassium. In medicine, we’ve known for decades that tall T waves could signify high potassium levels and that a potassium level over 5.0 mEq/L is dangerous. People with kidney disease are at risk for developing these levels of potassium.

After initialing failing with data from 1.3 million twelve lead ECGs and corresponding blood potassium levels, gathered over 20 years.

They thought that maybe all the key information was not in the T wave, as Friedman’s team had thought. So why not analyse the whole ECG signal and override the human assumption that all the useful information would have been encoded in the T wave? They asked the Mayo Clinic to come up with a better, broader dataset to work with. And Mayo came through. Now their algorithm could be tested with 2.8 million ECGs incorporating the whole ECG pattern instead of just the T wave with 4.28 million potassium levels. And what happened?

Eureka! The error rate dropped to 1 percent and the measure of predictive accuracy where 1.0 is perfect, rose from 0.63 in the first tests to 0.86.

They now had the data and algorithm to present to the FDA to get clearance to market the algorithm for detecting high potassium levels on a smartwatch.

There were vital lessons in AliveCor’s experience for anyone seeking to apply AI to medicine. When I asked Petterson what he learned, he said, “Don’t filter the data to early. . . . I was at Google. Vic was at Google. Simon was at Google. We have learned this lesson before, but sometimes you have to learn the lesson multiple times. Machine learning tends to work best if you give it enough data and the rawest data you can. Because if you have enough of it, then it should be able to filter out the noise by itself.”

https://www.engadget.com/2019/07/06/the-surprising-story-behind-apple-watchs-ecg-function/

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