Loot crates are now illegal in Belgium

Mallory Lockyear, writing for Engadget:

Officials in Belgium have determined that loot boxes violate the country’s gambling laws and if publishers don’t remove them from their games, they face jail time and fines. Specifically, FIFA 18Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were found to be in violation. While Star Wars Battlefront II was also part of the Belgian government’s investigation, EA’s removal of the game’s loot boxes kept it from bumping up against the country’s legislation. In a statement, Minister of Justice Koen Geens saidthat if loot boxes in the aforementioned games aren’t removed, their publishers could be subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €800,000 (approximately $974,926). If children are involved, those punishments could be doubled

Last week, the Netherlands also decided that loot boxes in some games were essentially gambling and called for publishers to remove them by mid-June, while countries like the UK and New Zealand have declared that loot boxes aren’t gambling. A number of US lawmakers have introduced bills regarding loot boxes, both to study them and restrict access to minors. Meanwhile, in response to the loot box controversy, the ESRB added an “In-Game Purchases” label to boxed games that have some sort of in-game purchase, including those with loot boxes.

I can’t even…

Source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/04/25/loot-crates-illegal-in-belgium/?guccounter=1

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Casey Johnston: ‘Don’t buy the MacBook Pros, even on sale’

Casey Johnston at The Outline, following up on her piece from late last year:

Since I wrote about my experience, many have asked me what happened with the new top half of the computer that the Apple Geniuses installed, with its pristine keyboard and maybe-different key switches. The answer is that after a couple of months, I started to get temporarily dead keys for seemingly no reason. Again.

I still had my 2013 MacBook Pro around, so I sold my 2016 MacBook Pro back to Apple’s refurb program, and now I just use the 2013 as my laptop (I used the recovered money to build a PC, lord help me). This old MacBook Pro is still fine, and most importantly, all the keyboard keys work. The new MacBook Pro is gone. When I started working at The Outline, I was offered a choice of a new MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air for my work computer, and I chose the MacBook Air, with its good keyboard that doesn’t break from dust. I’m fully committed to this bit.

My 12 inch MacBook has had a lot of issues with the keyboard along these same lines too. It’s been annoying (to say the least).

Apple may release new laptops with new keyboards that have these issues fixed, but Apple doesn’t seem too interested in fixing this issue for existing customers.

Source: https://theoutline.com/post/4277/dont-buy-the-new-macbook-pros-even-on-sale-in-my-opinion

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Nintendo’s Switch can be jailbroken to run custom apps and games

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Nintendo’s Switch was hacked to run Linux in February, and now it’s clear that hackers could go further and run homebrew apps and games on the device. Eurogamer reports that two exploits have been detailed this week that allow hackers to exploit a hardware flaw in Nvidia’s Tegra X1 (that powers the Switch) and gain access to the Switch’s operating system. Nintendo cannot patch the hardware flaw without releasing a new version of the Switch, which means that at least 14 million devices are vulnerable.

It’s a jailbreak that’s similar to a “tethered” iPhone jailbreak, meaning it needs to be performed on every boot via USB. The hack doesn’t require a modchip, although it’s likely that third parties will now create Switch hardware mods to assist with the jailbreak.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/24/17276214/nintendo-switch-hack-jailbreak-security-homebrew-apps-games

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Apple’s purchase of Shazam under investigation by the EU

Dani Deahl, writing for The Verge:

The EU has launched an investigation into Apple’s acquisition of music identification service Shazam. It’s concerned that the deal could shrink consumer options for mobile music streaming services within the EEA (European Economic Area).

In February, multiple countries, including Austria, France, Iceland, and Spain, requested that the European Commission assess the acquisition to determine whether it’s allowedunder a European Union merger law. The deal, according to the commission, “may have a significant adverse effect on competition in the European Economic Area.” That request is now being acted on, with an investigation deadline set of September 4th.

The primary worry appears to be that Spotify and Apple currently gain 1 million clicks per day through the Shazam app. While Shazam is still live, if Apple were to shut it down or only direct referrals to its own music service, Spotify could lose a significant amount of traffic. Additionally, officials point out that Apple could use Shazam’s data to unfairly target its rivals’ users and “encourage them to switch to Apple Music.”

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement: “The way people listen to music has changed significantly in recent years, with more and more Europeans using music streaming services. Our investigation aims to ensure that music fans will continue to enjoy attractive music streaming offers and won’t face less choice as a result of this proposed merger.”

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/23/17270788/apple-shazam-acquisition-eu

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Apple Open Sources FoundationDB

FoundationDB is a distributed datastore, designed from the ground up to be deployed on clusters of commodity hardware. These clusters scale well as you add machines, automatically heal from hardware failures, and have a simple API. The key-value store supports fully global, cross-row ACID transactions. That’s the highest level of data consistency possible. What does this mean for you? Strong consistency makes your application code simpler, your data models more efficient, and your failure modes less surprising.

[…]

The vision of FoundationDB is to start with a simple, powerful core and extend it through the addition of “layers”. The key-value store, which is open sourced today, is the core, focused on incorporating only features that aren’t possible to write in layers. Layers extend that core by adding features to model specific types of data and handle their access patterns.

I’ve worked with FoundationDB on a few projects and love it, while this is an interesting move on Apple’s part, it will grow it as they foster a community around it. Which they even said here:

By open sourcing FoundationDB, our goal is to build an open community. All major development will be done in the open. We’ve outlined a design document process to ensure that this work is done transparently and with community input. We’ve taken early steps to outline project governance to provide a basic structure that will enable members of the community who actively contribute to have a greater voice in the project decision-making.

We also want FoundationDB to be a healthy and responsive community. To that end, we’ve adopted a code of conduct based on the Contributor Covenant to outline the behaviors we encourage and those we disallow.

We’d love your participation. Here are several ways you can get involved:

  • Ask questions on the FoundationDB community forums: forums.foundationdb.org. We have categories for user-related questions (how do I use X) as well as development questions (I am digging into the FoundationDB core and want to change Y). Say hello!
  • Help improve the software by reporting bugs through GitHub issues.
  • Make contributions to the core software and documentation (please see the project’s contribution guide).

You can check out the code here.

Source: https://www.foundationdb.org/blog/foundationdb-is-open-source/

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Tim Cook: “Users don’t want iOS to merge with MacOS”

Tim Cook:

“We don’t believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [The Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two … you begin to make trade offs and compromises.

“So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day. But that’s not what it’s about. You know it’s about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don’t think that’s what users want.”

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/technology/users-don-t-want-ios-to-merge-with-macos-apple-chief-says-20180416-p4z9t9.html

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Jeff Bezos reveals Amazon has 100 million Prime members

CNBC:

In the letter, Bezos stressed the importance of having high standards in running a business. By setting high standards, companies are able to live up to “ever-rising customer expectations,” he said.

Bezos also disclosed for the first time that Prime now exceeds 100 million members worldwide. In 2017 alone, Amazon shipped over five billion items through its Prime service worldwide.

You can also read the SEC filing here, which has some interesting snippets such as:

13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally. In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year — both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/18/amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-2018-shareholder-letter.html

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Serenity Caldwell’s 9.7-inch iPad Review

Serenity Caldwell, writing at iMore:

For about a year, I worked exclusively on an iPad Pro. During that time I learned a lot about the highs (and massive lows) of iPad productivity, fell in love with the Apple Pencil, and discovered how best to balance my iPad and Mac lifestyle.

It’s no secret to say that the iPad has changed how I work and think on my devices. I use it for work, roller derby, casual sketching and idea generation, watching movies, and so much more. And it’s why I’ve continually been bullish on the device, even when sales lagged and great multitasking was but a rumor on the road map.

To me, the 2018 base-model 9.7-inch iPad is a special beast: It hits a line drive right through the company’s fabled intersection of technology and liberal arts — and at the right price point. The iPad Pro did it first, but at a cost unattainable for all but the tinkerers and serious artists, and without iOS 11’s crucial multitasking features. At $329, the iPad offers a low-end tablet experience unlike any other on the market. Add an extra $99 for Apple Pencil, and Apple has created the best device for all-purpose education, period.

But it’s easy to make that claim, and a whole other thing to explain why I believe it so whole-heartedly. As a result, I decided to try and prove it: Starting with a blank page in Procreate, I created an entire iPad review video by just using my 2018 iPad, Apple Pencil, and third-party apps. My Mac came into play only once — when I uploaded my video to YouTube.

The majority of her review is done as a video, created using the iPad she’s reviewing:

 

 

Source: https://www.imore.com/my-97-ipad-2018-review-drawn-written-edited-and-produced-ipad

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Study finds over 3,300 Android apps improperly tracking kids

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget:

There’s little doubt that mobile apps sometimes overstep their bounds by collecting more data from kids than the law allows. But how often does that happen? It might be more than you think. Researchers using an automated testing process have discovered that 3,337 family- and child-oriented Android apps on Google Play were improperly collecting kids’ data, potentially putting them in violation of the US’ COPPA law (which limits data collection for kids under 13). Only a small number were particularly glaring violations, but many apps exhibited behavior that could easily be seen as questionable.

Of the 5,855 total apps included in the study, 281 of them collected contact or location data without asking for a parent’s permission. Needless to say, those are red flags for any app targeted at kids. A further 1,100 shared persistent identifying info with third parties for restricted purposes, while 2,281 of them seemed to violate Google terms of service forbidding apps from sharing those identifiers to the same destination as the Android Advertising ID (which gives you control over tracking). About 40 percent of apps transmitted info without using “reasonable security measures,” and nearly all (92 percent) of the 1,280 apps with Facebook tie-ins weren’t properly using the social network’s code flags to limit under-13 use (though they may not have realized they were using this info for law-breaking purposes).

The researchers are adamant that they’re not showing “definitive legal liability.” These apps may be running afoul of the law, but it’s up to regulators at the FTC to decide if they are. Without iOS data, it’s also unclear how common this problem is across platforms. We’ve asked Google for comment on the findings as well.

Source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/04/15/study-finds-over-3300-android-apps-improperly-tracking-kids/

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Apple Sued an Independent iPhone Repair Shop Owner and Lost

Jason Koebler:

Last year, Apple’s lawyers sent Henrik Huseby, the owner of a small electronics repair shop in Norway, a letter demanding that he immediately stop using aftermarket iPhone screens at his repair business and that he pay the company a settlement.

Norway’s customs officials had seized a shipment of 63 iPhone 6 and 6S replacement screens on their way to Henrik’s shop from Asia and alerted Apple; the company said they were counterfeit.

In order to avoid being sued, Apple asked Huseby for “copies of invoices, product lists, order forms, payment information, prints from the internet and other relevant material regarding the purchase [of screens], including copies of any correspondence with the supplier … we reserve the right to request further documentation at a later date.”

The letter, sent by Frank Jorgensen, an attorney at the Njord law firm on behalf of Apple, included a settlement agreement that also notified him the screens would be destroyed. The settlement agreement said that Huseby agrees “not to manufacture, import, sell, market, or otherwise deal with any products that infringe Apple’s trademarks,” and asked required him to pay 27,700 Norwegian Krone ($3,566) to make the problem go away without a trial.

“Intellectual Property Law is a specialized area of law, and seeking legal advice is in many instances recommended,” Jorgensen wrote in the letter accompanying the settlement agreement. “However, we can inform you that further proceedings and costs can be avoided by settling the case.”

Huseby decided to fight the case.

[…]

The specifics of Huseby’s legal case apply only in Norway, of course, but his case speaks to a problem faced by independent iPhone repair shops around the world. Apple’s use of the legal system and trademark law turns average repair professionals into criminals and helps the company corner the repair market for Apple products.

In the United States, Apple has worked with the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to seize counterfeit parts in the United States and to raid the shops of independent iPhone repair professionals. ICE’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center rejected a Freedom of Information Act request I filed in 2016 regarding Apple’s involvement in its “Operation Chain Reaction” anti counterfeiting team, citing that doing so “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”

“In this case, Apple indirectly proves what they really want,” Par Harald Gjerstad, Huseby’s lawyer, told me in an email. “They want monopoly on repairs so they can keep high prices. And they therefore do not want to sell spare parts to anyone other than ‘to themselves.’”

[…]

The legal status of many of these parts remains an unanswered question around the world, but the general consensus seems to be that a part is “counterfeit” if it is masquerading as an original manufacturer part rather than an aftermarket one. Counterfeit parts are “tangible goods that infringe trademarks,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a partnership between 35 countries and a United Nations observer, wrote in a report last year.

Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a3yadk/apple-sued-an-independent-iphone-repair-shop-owner-and-lost

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