The A-Year-In-The-Making Edition Friday, February 19, 2016

Apple’s Line In The Sand Was Over A Year In The Making, by Matt Apuzzo, Joseph Goldstein And Eric Lichtblau, New York Times

Time and again after the introduction of the iPhone nearly a decade ago, the Justice Department asked Apple for help opening a locked phone. And nearly without fail, the company agreed.

Then last fall, the company changed its mind. In a routine drug case in a Brooklyn federal court, prosecutors sought a court order demanding that Apple unlock a methamphetamine dealer’s iPhone 5S running old, easy-to-unlock software. The company acknowledged that it could open the phone, as it had before. But this time, it pushed back.

“We’re being forced to become an agent of law enforcement,” the company’s lawyer, Marc Zwillinger, protested in court.

That stance foreshadowed this week’s showdown between the Obama administration and Apple over the locked iPhone belonging to one of the suspects in the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting rampage. By the time of Mr. Zwillinger’s statement, Apple and the government had been at odds for more than a year, since the debut of Apple’s new encrypted operating system, iOS 8, in late 2014.

Not A Slippery Slope, But A Jump Off The Cliff, by Nicholas Weaver, Lawfare

The same logic behind what the FBI seeks could just as easily apply to a mandate forcing Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others to push malicious code to a device through automatic updates when the device isn't yet in law enforcement's hand. So the precedent the FBI seeks doesn't represent just "create and install malcode for this device in Law Enforcement possession" but rather "create and install malcode for this device".

How Tim Cook, In iPhone Battle, Became A Bulwark For Digital Privacy, by Katie Benner and Nicole Perlroth, New York Times

He was proud that Apple sold physical products — phones, tablets and laptops — and did not traffic in the intimate, digital details of its customers’ lives.

That stance crystallized on Tuesday when Mr. Cook huddled for hours with lawyers and others at Apple’s headquarters to figure out how to respond to a federal court order requiring the company to let the United States government break into the iPhone of one of the gunmen in a San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting. Late Tuesday, Mr. Cook took the fight public with a letter to customers that he personally signed.

The Conscription Of Apple's Software Engineers, by Conor Friedersoorf, The Atlantic

The federal government is empowered to compel individuals and corporations to hand over data in their possession upon the presentation of a valid search warrant. Is the FBI also empowered to compel Americans to write and execute malware? [...] A federal judge is effectively ordering these unnamed people to write code that would indisputably harm their company and that would, in their view, harm America. They are being conscripted to take actions that they believe to be immoral, that would breach the trust of millions, and that could harm countless innocents. They have been ordered to do intellectual labor that violates their consciences.

Upgrade Your iPhone Passcode To Defeat The Fbi’s Backdoor Strategy, by Micah Lee, The Intercept

By choosing a strong passcode, the FBI shouldn’t be able to unlock your encrypted phone, even if it installs a backdoored version of iOS on it. Not unless it has hundreds of years to spare.

Facebook, Twitter Voice Support For Apple's Stance On Encryption by Daniel Eran Dilger, AppleInsider

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey tweeted "we stand with Tim Cook and Apple," while Facebook expressed it would "fight aggressively" against any government actions to "weaken the security" of consumer products.

Apple Gets An Extension In iPhone Unlock Case, Response Now Due February 26th, by Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch

Apple has received an extension in the timeline that it has to reply to a court order to modify an iPhone for the FBI. The deadline, originally Tuesday, has been pushed out to Friday, February 26th, TechCrunch has learned.

Old Phone, New Phone

Apple Apologizes And Updates iOS To Restore iPhones Disabled By Error 53, by Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch

Today, Apple is issuing an updated version of iOS 9.2.1 for users that update their iPhones via iTunes only. This update will restore phones ‘bricked’ or disabled by Error 53 and will prevent future iPhones that have had their home button (or the cable) replaced by third-party repair centers from being disabled. Note that this is a patched version of iOS 9.2.1, previously issued, not a brand-new version of iOS.

Apple Launches iPhone ‘Trade Up With Installments’ Plan From $15/mo, Yet Another Way To Buy A New iPhone In The US, by Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac

What the ‘Trade Up With Installments’ offers is a reduction of that monthly fee, in exchange for a trade-in of your existing smartphone. For example, you can trade in your current iPhone 6 to get a new iPhone 6s with a 2-year payment plan of $15/mo. What’s interesting is that you can trade in an Android device, not just iPhones — Apple will give up to $300 in trade-in value for Android handsets.

Inside The Phones

The Most Important Apple Executive You’ve Never Heard Of, by Brad Stone, Adam Satariano, and Gwen Ackerman, Bloomberg

A little over a year ago, Apple had a problem: The iPad Pro was behind schedule. Elements of the hardware, software, and accompanying stylus weren’t going to be ready for a release in the spring. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and his top lieutenants had to delay the unveiling until the fall. That gave most of Apple’s engineers more time. It gave a little-known executive named Johny Srouji much less.

Srouji is the senior vice president for hardware technologies at Apple. He runs the division that makes processor chips, the silicon brains inside the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. The original plan was to introduce the iPad Pro with Apple’s tablet chip, the A8X, the same processor that powered the iPad Air 2, introduced in 2014. But delaying until fall meant that the Pro would make its debut alongside the iPhone 6s, which was going to use a newer, faster phone chip called the A9.


Journaling Vs. Blogging, by Watts Martin, Coyote Tracks

There’s something oddly comforting about taking ten or fifteen minutes at night to write down my impressions of the day, even if I’m the only one who’s going to read them later.

Airfoil 5.0, by Agen G. N. Schmitz, TidBITS

Rogue Amoeba has released Airfoil 5.0, a significant update to the wireless audio broadcasting app that brings a number of new features, including support for sending audio to a Bluetooth speaker or headset, as well as multiple Bluetooth devices simultaneously.

Microsoft's Translator App Plays Catch-up With Google, by Lance Whitney, CNET

Released Thursday, the version of Microsoft Translator for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch now includes optical character recognition, or OCR. That means the app can translate text that's in an image. You could use your iPhone to snap a photo of a sign or menu, and the app would overlay a translation of the text.

PayPal Overhauls Its Mobile App, by Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

With the redesign, PayPal is focused on offering a more extensible framework under the hood that will allow it to add new features in the months to come, while also offering a simplified experience for users who want easier ways to make peer-to-peer payments, pay in stores, order food, manage their account settings, and more.

Finding Ways To Get Live TV On A Mac, by J. D. Biersdorfer, New York Times

Mac-friendly television tuners on USB sticks have become hard to find, especially since Elgato, one of the major manufacturers, stopped selling the devices in North America last year.


Understanding Night Shift’s Impact On Accessibility, by Steven Aquino, MacStories

Broadly speaking, Night Shift is interesting accessibility-wise because of the way the appearance (brightness and/or resolution) of an iPhone or iPad's screen can influence readability.

Inside The Artificial Universe That Creates Itself, by Roc Morin, The Atlantic

A team of programmers has built a self-generating cosmos, and even they don’t know what’s hiding in its vast reaches.

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I am so sleepy.


Thanks for reading.