Credit card signatures are about to become extinct in the U.S.

Stacy Cowley, New York Times:

Credit card networks are finally ready to concede what has been obvious to shoppers and merchants for years: Signatures are not a useful way to prove someone’s identity. Later this month, four of the largest networks — American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa — will stop requiring them to complete card transactions.

The signature, a centuries-old way of verifying identity, is rapidly going extinct. Personal checks are anachronisms. Pen-and-ink letters are scarce. When credit card signatures disappear, handwritten authentications will be relegated to a few special circumstances: sealing a giant transaction like a house purchase, or getting a celebrity to autograph a piece of memorabilia — and even that is being supplanted by the cellphone selfie.

Card signatures won’t vanish overnight. The change is optional, leaving retailers to decide whether they want to stop collecting signatures.

About time.

Apple’s 2019 Mac Pro will be shaped by workflows

Matthew Panzarino got exclusive access to Apple’s pro hardware and tools group:

I visited the Apple campus in Cupertino to figure out where the hell the new Mac Pro was. I joined a round-table discussion with Apple  SVPs and a handful of reporters to get the skinny on what was taking so long.

The answer, it turns out, was that Apple had decided to start completely over with the Mac Pro, introduce completely new pro products like the iMac  Pro and refresh the entire MacBook Pro lineup. The reasoning given at the time on the Mac Pro was basically that Apple had painted itself into an architecture corner by being aggressively original on the design of the bullet/turbine/trash-can shaped casing and internal components of the current Mac Pro. There was nothing to be done but start over.

The secondary objective to that visit was to reassure pro customers who had not had news of updates in some time that Apple was listening, was working to deliver products for them and generally still cared.

Now, it’s a year later and Apple has created a team inside the building that houses its pro products group. It’s called the Pro Workflow Team, and they haven’t talked about it publicly before today. The group is under John Ternus and works closely with the engineering organization. The bays that I’m taken to later to chat about Final Cut Pro, for instance, are a few doors away from the engineers tasked with making it run great on Apple hardware.

[…]

To do that, Ternus says, they want their architects sitting with real customers to understand their actual flow and to see what they’re doing in real time. The challenge with that, unfortunately, is that though customers are typically very responsive when Apple comes calling, it’s not always easy to get what they want because they may be using proprietary content. John Powell, for instance, is a long-time Logic user and he’s doing the new Star Wars Han Solo standalone flick. As you can imagine, taking those unreleased and highly secret compositions to Apple to play with on their machines can be a sticking point.

So Apple decided to go a step further and just begin hiring these creatives directly into Apple. Some of them on a contract basis but many full-time, as well. These are award-winning artists and technicians that are brought in to shoot real projects (I saw a bunch of them walking by in Apple Park toting kit for an on-premise outdoor shoot). They then put the hardware and software through their paces and point out sticking points that could cause frustration and friction among pro users

Apple Hires John Giannandrea, Google’s Chief of Search and Artificial Intelligence

 

Jack Nicas and Cade Metz, reporting for The New York Times:

Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals.

Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.

Combine this with the reports that Apple is hiring over 100 engineers to improve Siri and this is a huge move to improve their AI efforts.

CloudFlare launches new public DNS service: 1.1.1.1

CloudFlare has just launched a new public DNS service called 1.1.1.1

Matthew Prince wrote a nice post on it in the CloudFlare Blog:

The problem is that these DNS services are often slow and not privacy respecting. What many Internet users don’t realize is that even if you’re visiting a website that is encrypted — has the little green lock in your browser — that doesn’t keep your DNS resolver from knowing the identity of all the sites you visit. That means, by default, your ISP, every wifi network you’ve connected to, and your mobile network provider have a list of every site you’ve visited while using them.

[…]

But it’s been depressing to us to watch all too frequently how DNS can be used as a tool of censorship against many of the groups we protect. While we’re good at stopping cyber attacks, if a consumer’s DNS gets blocked there’s been nothing we could do to help.

[…]

We talked to the APNIC team about how we wanted to create a privacy-first, extremely fast DNS system. They thought it was a laudable goal. We offered Cloudflare’s network to receive and study the garbage traffic in exchange for being able to offer a DNS resolver on the memorable IPs. And, with that, 1.1.1.1 was born.

Also of note was this review by Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

I just checked 1.1.1.1’s performance and it appears to be the fastest DNS out there, avergaing 14.01 ms worldwide and 11.34 ms in Europe over the last 30 days. Google’s 8.8.8.8 and 4.4.4.4 is significantly slower, clocking in at 34.51 ms and 24.43 ms respectively.

This looks like a pretty interesting new service from CloudFlare to compete with Google’s Public DNS and OpenDNS.

Setting it up is pretty straight forward (along the same lines as other similar services), you just change your DNS servers:

  1. Set the primary DNS server to 1.1.1.1
  2. Then set the secondary DNS server to 1.0.0.1

I’ve found the speeds to be along the same lines as CloudFlare mentions

Chrome Web Store no longer allows crypto-mining extensions

Until now, Chrome Web Store policy has permitted cryptocurrency mining in extensions as long as it is the extension’s single purpose, and the user is adequately informed about the mining behavior. Unfortunately, approximately 90% of all extensions with mining scripts that developers have attempted to upload to Chrome Web Store have failed to comply with these policies, and have been either rejected or removed from the store.

Starting today, Chrome Web Store will no longer accept extensions that mine cryptocurrency. Existing extensions that mine cryptocurrency will be delisted from the Chrome Web Store in late June. Extensions with blockchain-related purposes other than mining will continue to be permitted in the Web Store.

The extensions platform provides powerful capabilities that have enabled our developer community to build a vibrant catalog of extensions that help users get the most out of Chrome. Unfortunately, these same capabilities have attracted malicious software developers who attempt to abuse the platform at the expense of users. This policy is another step forward in ensuring that Chrome users can enjoy the benefits of extensions without exposing themselves to hidden risks.

Tim Cook: “Facebook should have regulated itself, but it’s too late for that now”

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:

Apple CEO Tim Cook has doubled down on his call for regulation that would limit Facebook and others companies’ ability to use customer data.

Speaking to Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Cook said he’d prefer that Facebook and others would have curbed their use of personal data to build “these detailed profiles of people … patched together from several sources.”

“I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation,” he said. “However, I think we’re beyond that here.”

Cook has made a point of criticizing Facebook for both the Cambridge Analytica affair and its overall approach to consumer privacy in recent days. But it’s not a new stance for him or the company: He made similar comments about Facebook and Google in 2015, and his predecessor Steve Jobs went out of his way to contrast Apple’s privacy stance with rivals like Google in 2010.

[..]

Cook made that point again today: “The truth is, we could make a ton of money, if we monetized our customer – if our customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that.”

Swisher posed a question for Cook: What would he do if he were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg” His answer: “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Jim Dalrymple: “I’m annoyed at the reaction to Apple’s Education Event”

Jim Dalrymple:

I’m a bit annoyed.

Apple on Tuesday held an event in Chicago focused on its education customers. They offered a total solution that included an iPad and software to make learning in the classroom better for teachers and students, but somehow they are getting severely criticized for all of the announcements.

I’ve seen things written like, ‘Apple should have purchased a textbook company and given textbooks to all students for free,’ and the ‘new iPad isn’t cheap enough’, and the ‘iPad is missing many of the features of the Pro version.’

Let’s be clear, Apple couldn’t buy a textbook company and give them away even if they wanted to—the antitrust issues are too large. It’s a nice pipe dream, but it’s not based in reality. Criticizing Apple for that is just unfair.

In its 40 years of being in the education market, Apple has never been the cheapest product—they never will be. I don’t know why people expect Apple to all of a sudden just give away iPads to schools or even compete against a product like a cheap Chromebook on price.

Apple doesn’t make cheap products. Ever. They also don’t make shitty products. You can expect the iPad to last for years without breaking or becoming obsolete. I expect the return on investment for schools to be quite high when purchasing iPads for the classroom.

Comparing the entry level iPad that is designed for students and consumers to a pro model is just silly. The features we may need as pro users are not the same features students will need in the classroom. If Apple could sell the iPad Pro at that price, I’m sure they would, but it’s just not feasible.

What Apple did was look at the iPad and decide what features were needed by students in our schools and then make the product as affordable as possible. I think they delivered that product. Do students need True Tone for their display? No. How about front and rear cameras? That could come in handy, especially for AR or a field trip, and the iPad has that.

Does anyone really think the Chromebook is as feature rich and durable as an iPad? I don’t think so, but it is cheaper. That’s about all it’s got going for it.

I was never a fan of Web apps either, even when Apple introduced them with the original iPhone. There is no way Web apps are a better tool than native apps on the iPad and the App Store has 200,000 education apps available.

I use both Chromebook and iPad Pro for work, and my daughter uses a Chromebook and an iPad as well, so I can be a bit of a devil’s advocate here.

First, I love the Apple infrastructure, so don’t take this to mean I don’t. My iPad is always with me, along with my iPhone.

Chromebooks aren’t entirely web app only these days, most of the more recent Chromebooks also have access to the android app store too which opens up what they can use.

Older Chromebooks do not have this feature, but for those that do, it’s handy.

If AR is the main reasoning for why an iPad is better than a Chromebook, what about when it comes to doing school work?

Typing on a tablet isn’t as intuitive as a keyboard, and the Apple Pencil is great, but it’s no keyboard, so then you have to include the cost of a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad since it doesn’t have the smart connector.

But this is the entry level iPad so no smart connector needed.

Beyond just Chromebooks, a lot of schools are also using GSuite like Google Docs and Google Drive to do school work, students can then share a document with other students and their teachers.

Pages and Keynote might have sharing features, but they’d have to have those apps installed as well and the web app versions of Pages and Keynote aren’t too good.

While Jim may not like web apps, they are heavily in use, (I should know, I spend all day building web apps), and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Another handy feature for Chromebooks in education is management and deployment, being able to push an update to a student’s Chromebook is extremely handy and Apple is behind on this. School boards usually have their own people handling this for the schools, and not teachers.

As for schools, Apple is a premium product, but most schools don’t have the budget to outfit all their students with an iPad when one iPad can buy two or three Chromebooks depending on the model, this is important in education where most things are purchased with public funds and schools have to fight for funding.

Take a look at the success stories of students and teachers using Chromebooks.

iPads and Chromebooks both have their uses, both work well and do their jobs incredibly well. But don’t underestimate what a Chromebook can do.

Like I said above, I am a huge fan of Apple and their products, but in this area, it’s hard to defend them entirely.

Canadians to get emergency alerts on their phones

CTV News:

Canada’s wireless providers are preparing for a looming update to the National Public Alerting System that will force smartphones to sound an ominous alarm when an emergency alert is triggered.

In case of emergencies including Amber Alerts, forest fires, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or severe weather, officials will be able to send a localized alert that will compel compatible phones on an LTE network to emit an alarm — the same shrill beeping that accompanies TV and radio emergency alerts — and display a bilingual text warning.

Apple’s Getting Back Into the E-Books Fight Against Amazon

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg on Apple’s new efforts for iBooks:

Apple is working on a redesigned version of its iBooks e-book reading application for iPhones and iPads and has hired an executive from Amazon to help.

The new app, due to be released in coming months, will include a simpler interface that better highlights books currently being read and a redesigned digital book store that looks more like the new App Store launched last year, according to people familiar with its development. The revamped app in testing includes a new section called Reading Now and a dedicated tab for audio books, the people said.