Ex-Apple worker charged with stealing self-driving car trade secrets

U.S. authorities on Monday charged a former Apple Inc employee with theft of trade secrets, alleging that the person downloaded a secret blueprint related to a self-driving car to a personal laptop and later trying to flee the country, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

The complaint said that the former employee, Xiaolang Zhang, disclosed intentions to work for a Chinese self-driving car startup and booked a last-minute flight to China after downloading the plan for a circuit board for the self-driving car. Authorities arrested Zhang on July 7 at the San Jose airport after he passed through a security checkpoint.

“Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously,” Apple said in a statement. “We’re working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions.”

[…]

In April, Zhang took paternity leave following the birth of a child and traveled with his family to China, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

When Zhang returned, he told his supervisor he planned to resign, move back to China and work for Xiaopeng Motors, an intelligent electric vehicle company headquartered there with offices in Silicon Valley, the complaint said.

Since leaving Apple, Zhang had been employed by Xiaopeng Motors’ wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary XMotors.

Zhang’s supervisor called Apple security officials, who discovered that Zhang had run extensive searches of secret databases and had come on to Apple’s campus on April 28, when he was supposed to be on paternity leave, the complaint alleged.

While on campus, the complaint alleges, Zhang took circuit boards and a computer server from a self-driving car hardware lab, and his Apple co-workers showed him a “proprietary chip.”

XMotors said in a statement on Wednesday that it is “highly concerned” and that “there is no indication that (Zhang) has ever communicated any sensitive information from Apple to XMotors.”

[…]

Zhang told Apple officials he had taken the hardware from the lab because he wanted to transfer to a new position within Apple and thought it would be useful to him, the complaint said.

Zhang also allegedly downloaded data to a personally owned computer, including a 25-page secret blueprint of a circuit board for a self-driving car, which investigators described as “the single file” that “serves as the basis for the instant criminal charge.”

FBI agents questioned Zhang and served a search warrant at his house on June 27, according to the complaint. Agents learned he had purchased a “last-minute” round-trip airline ticket for China on July 7 and arrested Zhang at the airport, according to the complaint.

Wow, that’s some real life corporate espionage right there from the sounds of it.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-apple-theft/ex-apple-worker-charged-with-stealing-self-driving-car-trade-secrets-idUSKBN1K02RR

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Linux apps on Chrome OS coming to 18 more Chromebooks

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge:

Eighteen more Chromebooks are getting support for Linux apps on Chrome OS, with laptops based in Intel’s Apollo Lake architecture now able to run the applications, via XDA Developers.

That list includes computers from Lenovo (Thinkpad 11e Chromebook), Acer (Chromebook Spin 11 and Chromebook 15), Asus (Chromebook Flip), and Dell (Dell Chromebook 11) — check the full list at XDA’s site to see if your machine is included.

Previously, Linux apps worked on the Google Pixelbook and Samsung Chromebook Plus, but support for the Apollo Lake machines should open it up to a much wider range of users — and more importantly, to a much wider range of laptop price points.

The update is still in the works, so Canary and Developer channel users will see the added support first, with customers on the main, final Chrome OS branch not set to get the update until the next version of Chrome (Chrome 69) rolls out later this year.

I’ve been testing this on my Pixelbook for the last couple weeks and it’s been pretty handy, so seeing more devices getting support is nice.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/6/28/17514390/chromebooks-intel-apollo-lake-linux-support

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Apple Engineers Its Own Downfall With the Macbook Pro Keyboard

  • March, 2015: Apple introduces butterfly keys in the 2015 MacBook
  • October, 2016: Apple introduces butterfly 2.0 in the Late 2016 MacBook Pro. We note in our teardown, “The keycaps are a little taller at the edges, making keys easier to find with your fingers. The switches have likewise gained some heft.”
  • Late 2017: Keyboard complaints begin to roll in
  • June 2018: Apple announces keyboard replacement program

The first-gen butterfly keyboard showed up in 2015, but the real root of the problem dates back to 2012 in the very first Retina MacBook Pro. That radical redesign replaced their rugged, modular workhorse with a slimmed-down frame and first-of-its-kind retina display.

And a battery glued to the keyboard.

The new notebook was universally applauded by tech pundits, with one notable exception: my team at iFixit. Unlike the rest of the tech media, we don’t judge products for their release-day usability or aesthetics—we focus on what will happen when the device (inevitably) fails. How time-consuming (and therefore expensive) is it to open? Can broken components be replaced individually, or will you have to swap out more expensive larger modules? Our score provides a consumer with an educated guess of repair costs before they buy the product.

The basic flaw is that these ultra-thin keys are easily paralyzed by particulate matter. Dust can block the keycap from pressing the switch, or disable the return mechanism. I’ll show you how in a minute.

[…]

So you can’t switch key caps. And it gets worse. The keyboard itself can’t simply be swapped out. You can’t even swap out the upper case containing the keyboard on its own. You also have to replace the glued-in battery, trackpad, and speakers at the same time. For Apple’s service team, the entire upper half of the laptop is a single component. That’s why Apple has been charging through the nose and taking forever on these repairs. And that’s why it’s such a big deal—for customers and for shareholders—that Apple is extending the warranty. It’s a damned expensive way to dust a laptop.

[…]

Thin may be in, but it has tradeoffs. Ask any Touch Bar owner if they would trade a tenth of a millimeter for a more reliable keyboard. No one who has followed this Apple support document instructing them to shake their laptop at a 75 degree angle and spray their keyboard with air in a precise zig-zag pattern will quibble over a slightly thicker design.

This is design anorexia: making a product slimmer and slimmer at the cost of usefulness, functionality, serviceability, and the environment.

 

Source: https://ifixit.org/blog/10229/macbook-pro-keyboard/

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Jason Snell on Macos Mojave

Jason Snell:

Personally, I’m more excited about macOS Mojave than any recent macOS beta. The new dark mode alone is a huge change in what we have come to think of as the Mac interface, and the changes to Finder have an awful lot of potential. I’m also really happy to be able to control my HomeKit devices directly from my Mac, either via the Home app or Siri.

Source: https://sixcolors.com/post/2018/06/mojave-beta/

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Free Trials from Apple’s Perspective

Drew McCormack:

I don’t want to get into a point-by-point debate on the topic; instead, I want to do something that I haven’t seen anyone do: try to understand why Apple don’t want the sort of free trials that are being demanded.

Apple currently allows free trials in two forms: if you sell subscriptions, you can give customers a free month to try the app; and, you can give your app away free, and offer a free In-App Purchase (IAP) to unlock all features for a fixed period of time.

So why does Apple allow these forms, but not offer a more formal version of free trials? Most developers seem to assume they are deliberately ignoring their protests, for no good reason, or that they simply are not willing to dedicate the resources to solve the problem. I doubt both of these assumptions. I think Apple have probably thought long and hard about it, and concluded that the options they have introduced are actually better than the free trials developer’s are requesting.

Source: https://medium.com/@drewmccormack/free-trials-from-apples-perspective-3d925486bf2

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How Apple can fix 3D Touch

Eliz Kilic:

It’s been almost 4 years since its first introduction, yet people don’t know/use 3D Touch. Why would they? Even tech-savvy users don’t know which buttons offer 3D touch. Let alone regular users.

What would happen if we decide to make all links same color and style as the regular text? People would not know what to click on right? Why is 3D Touch be any different? We rely on our vision to decide actionability before anything else. If you can’t distinguish 3D Touchable buttons from those that are not, how are you supposed to know you can press on them?

Source: https://medium.com/@eliz_kilic/how-apple-can-fix-3d-touch-2f0ca5ea589e

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On The Sad State of Macintosh Hardware

Quentin Carnicelli:

At the time of the writing, with the exception of the $5,000 iMac Pro, no Macintosh has been updated at all in the past year.

  • iMac Pro: 182 days ago
  • iMac: 374 days ago
  • MacBook: 374 days ago
  • MacBook Air: 374 days ago
  • MacBook Pro: 374 days ago
  • Mac Pro: 436 days ago
  • Mac Mini: 1337 days ago:

Worse, most of these counts are misleading, with the machines not seeing a true update in quite a bit longer. The Mac Mini hasn’t seen an update of any kind in almost 4 years (nor, for that matter, a price drop). The once-solid Mac Pro was replaced by the dead-end cylindrical version all the way back in 2013, which was then left to stagnate. I don’t even want to get started on the MacBook Pro’s questionable keyboard, or the MacBook’s sole port (USB-C which must also be used to provide power).

[…]

Rather than attempting to wow the world with “innovative” new designs like the failed Mac Pro, Apple could and should simply provide updates and speed bumps to the entire lineup on a much more frequent basis. The much smaller Apple of the mid-2000s managed this with ease. Their current failure to keep the Mac lineup fresh, even as they approach a trillion dollar market cap, is both baffling and frightening to anyone who depends on the platform for their livelihood.

Source: https://weblog.rogueamoeba.com/2018/06/14/on-the-sad-state-of-macintosh-hardware/

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Apple finally has the right attitude about notifications in iOS 12

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

There were a lot of great features announced last week at Apple’s WWDC, but the one that’s going to have the biggest effect on my day-to-day life is the overhaul to how notifications are managed in iOS 12.

Back in April, I detailed four things that Android does better than the iPhone when it comes to notifications. With iOS 12, Apple has taken care of three of them. Notifications can be grouped, it’s easier to make them silently appear, and, most importantly, you can directly manage settings from the notification itself. Android P still claims to do a better job of prioritizing notifications, but three out of four isn’t bad.

I suspect that the features Apple added to iOS 12 will go a very long way toward helping people get control over their notifications. Dealing with notifications was one of the iPhone’s most glaring UI deficiencies compared to Android, and I am glad to see something a little closer to parity coming.

[…]

More important than a bulleted list of features is what I think is a change in attitude about notifications inside Apple. In years past when I’d complain about them, I would basically hear a message that trying to manage your entire phone experience through a notification center was a recipe for a bad experience. That’s perhaps true, but it also missed the point: the increasing influx of notifications was real, and we need a better way to handle them.

With iOS 12, I see Apple actually contending with that bare fact. Along with the basic changes to managing the notifications, it also added the Screen Time feature to help you manage how much time you spend on your phone. (Google announced a similar thing for Android P, but the likelihood that a majority of Android users will get P in the next six months is tiny.) Apple also added more nuanced controls for Do Not Disturb.

Taken together, I see a shift away from treating notifications as a feed of information you just dip in and out of. It’s a recognition that notifications are like email: some are very important, most are not, and we need ways to differentiate between them.

Some of the iPhone’s new notification features are deeper and more interesting than I first realized. You can set time limits and location limits for when DND should end, but Apple is also using on-device analysis to suggest it. When a meeting pops up, Siri might send a notification saying your meeting “looks important! Turn on Do Not Disturb until the end of this event.”

[…]

What’s important about this attitude shift is that Apple is adding quite a bit of complexity to iOS. It’s a recognition that hard problems like notifications sometimes require complicated solutions. Whether or not Apple has struck the right balance of simplicity and complexity is a matter for the review, but for right now, I think I can speak to the philosophy of it.

Apple is leaving the default behavior pretty simple but giving us slightly faster ways to dive into its complex underpinnings. For example, tapping “Deliver Quietly” doesn’t do anything magical. It just sets up some already-existing settings for how a notification should arrive. Preventing notifications from buzzing your phone in one step is a great, helpful thing that tons of people will use. If you want more complexity, you can go in and mess with more discrete settings like Temporary vs. Persistent banners yourself. But you don’t have to.

Another example of contending with complexity is that Apple is finally recognizing that a ton of apps have their own in-app notification settings in addition to the global settings. For example, a news app has different categories of news, and a sports app has notifications for your team. Apple has made it easy for developers to deep-link into their in-app settings and put those links at the bottom of the global settings. It also put them in the pop-up for when you want to turn off notifications, giving developers one last chance to stay on your lock screen.

There’s another change that didn’t get mentioned on the main keynote stage but inside one of the developer sessions instead: Designing Notifications. Until now, developers only had a blunt instrument for sending you notifications: a pop-up asking if you want them. With iOS 12, developers can send their first notification directly to the Notification Center without asking your permission. That sounds awful, but the first time one appears, it will do so along with a prompt asking if you really want them or not.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/13/17453924/apple-notifications-ios-12-attitude

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The war for CopperheadOS

For anyone who doesn’t know, CopperheadOS is a source-available operating system for smartphones and tablet computers, based on the Android mobile platform. It is based on the official releases of the Android Open Source Project by Google, with added privacy and security features. The developer, Daniel Micay, builds on the existing official releases of Android to make a more secure solution, and it works great.

Yesterday, Daniel tweeted this:

There’s also a conversation going on on Reddit as well in the CopperheadOS subreddit.

Daniel, the former CTO, has been the sole developer on CopperheadOS since day one, and part owner of the company.

His partner, James Donaldson, decided to seize control of the company yesterday.

James owns the http://copperhead.co domain on his personal namecheap account, and has demanded that Daniel hand over his GPG signing key that he created in 2009, before the company was founded in 2015.

Daniel posted in the reddit thread:

Note that the signing keys are not compromised and no updates to the OS or apps can be created now. I destroyed my signing keys to prevent any situation where users could be compromised. The infrastructure is not trusted by the OS. No OS or app updates can be created that would be accepted. There is still most of the month before the July security update at which point I can’t recommend using it anymore…

I honestly have no idea who is in the right or wrong here.

The two owners have apparently been arguing over the past couple weeks before Micay’s firing yesterday.

What the future holds for CopperheadOS is up in the air right now.

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How Siri Shortcuts Can Revolutionize Ios Automation

David Sparks:

One of the nice things about returning home from the excitement of WWDC is a chance to reflect on what Apple announced and begin thinking about how it will change things, if at all. At the top of my mind is Siri Shortcuts.

[…]

I was invited to the Workflow app beta pretty early. From the first install, it was immediately apparent to me that Workflow was one of those unique apps that could change everything. As the beta went on and on (and on), my biggest worry was that Apple would not approve the app. Eventually, they did, however, and Workflow gave us tools that, at least in some ways, exceed our abilities to automate on the Mac platform.

Over time, it only got better. One of the primary reasons I work at an iMac throughout the day with an iPad always in arm’s reach is for Workflow. I’ve automated so much of my work using Workflow that I can’t imagine losing it.

That’s why when, in March 2017, Apple purchased Workflow, I freaked out a bit. Last year at Sal Soghoian’s CMD-D Automation conference, I gave a session on Workflow. As I was about to start my presentation, one attendee introduced himself to me and explained he was super-excited because he had never used Workflow before and was looking forward to me helping him get started. Then as I stood up on stage, I looked in the back row of the room to see the Workflow developers sitting, smiling. So my last thought before starting my first slide was that I had a room ranging from absolute beginner to the actual app developer and 45 minutes to satisfy them both.

[…]

Siri Shortcuts are Workflow plus so much more. This includes deeper operating system integration, more tools, and a better user experience with multiple ways to discover and use these shortcuts.

[…]

To begin, Siri Shortcuts allow app developers, through two different programming methods, to add the ability of specific views in their apps to become actionable Shortcuts that can be triggered by voice, through the operating system suggestions, or as part of the new Shortcuts app. I’m over-simplifying, but one method can be implemented, in some instances, with a single line of additional code.

Apple further created more comprehensive tools letting developers go even deeper with this. Specific application functions can provide the user information, take action, or go deeper with the application. The whole point is to simplify the process of getting Siri to do tasks and report back information that usually takes a user many taps and much navigation.

[…]

One of the easiest ways to trigger a Siri Shortcut is, not surprisingly, with your voice. The good news here is that Apple has not defined a specific voice control syntax. Instead, it lets the user record their own Siri Shortcut phase for any Siri Shortcut or chain of Siri Shortcuts.

Because the user defines the Siri phrase, it doesn’t have to be some crazy app-related syntax. A user can say, “Hey Siri, I’m heading home”, and this could trigger a string of Siri shortcuts to send a text message to a loved one, turn on the heater, play your favorite playlist, and display navigation directions home. Another person that happens to be a Star Trek fan could pull off the same tasks with the command, “Hey Siri, Go home, Engage!”

So in addition to operating system integration and power, this new system provides users is a simple method to create their own voice phrases to trigger automation. For a lot of people, this could just be a few, like ordering their favorite latte or controlling their HomeKit devices. For others, like me, this will turn into a library of user-defined phrases to trigger automation magic. For example, I plan to make one called “new client” that with just those two words will trigger two OmniFocus template projects, create an engagement agreement, and send off an email to my assistant about billing details.

[…]

However, another bit of insight that comes out of watching last week’s Keynote and the WWDC Siri Shortcuts sessions is that this is not just intended to be something you choose to engage with your voice. The system can also plug into Siri’s predictive analysis of the user as she goes through the day.

In both the home screen pull down and the widget screen, Siri Shortcuts are looking at your local data and trying to help. If you routinely order the same drink every day, it’s going to offer to do that for you. If you have a meeting with location data and you’re not at that location, Siri Shortcuts are going to write a text message to the other meeting participant explaining you’re late and ask you if you want to send it. This could be the easiest way to pull in novice users if it works as advertised.

Regardless, you’ll get integration throughout the operating system that we could never have dreamed of with Workflow was an independent application.

[…]

Looking at some of the screenshots of the new Siri Shortcuts app, it becomes clear that this is the successor to the Workflow application. It appears to work exactly the same, with stackable actions, a library of existing workflows, and even the ability to look up and pass data between steps as the automation proceeds.

[…]

When you stop to think about the feelings we all had on the day that Apple announced the purchase of the Workflow app, it’s hard to believe a better outcome than what we got. Apple fully supported Workflow after the acquisition, and while building the new thing, Siri Shortcuts is clearly the successor using ideas from the original Workflow app and adding so much more with deep operating system integration, and this new version has voice-controlled and operating system triggers that would have never been possible before.

[…]

I’ve always felt that the iPhone and iPad could be capable of so much more with deeper automation. For so long Apple showed no interest in automation, and I’d convinced myself that they were afraid to get that geeky all over their new mobile operating system. I’m not alone in this. However, with the Workflow acquisition, it feels like we have now embedded, inside Apple, a group of our brother and sister automation nerds and they are running wild all over the iOS operating system. I couldn’t be happier. I hope that when iOS 12 ships, Siri Shortcuts delivers the goods we’ve seen so far. I also hope Apple management never wises up to the automation revolution that may result.

David gives a great write up on the upcoming Siri Shortcuts, and I like the direction they’ve taken their purchase of Workflow, it’s an app I use daily and will use even more now with iOS 12.

Source: https://www.macsparky.com/blog/2018/6/how-siri-shortcuts-can-revolutionize-ios-automation

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