The Substantive-Assistance Edition Tuesday, January 14, 2020

US Attorney General Bill Barr Asked Apple To Unlock The Pensacola Shooter's Phones. Apple Said No., by Scott Lucas, BuzzFeed News

"We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing," the company said in a statement. "We responded to each request promptly, often within hours, sharing information with FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York. The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we turned over to investigators. In every instance, we responded with all of the information that we had."

But Apple said nothing about actually unlocking the gunman's two iPhones. Instead, it reiterated its stance on privacy.

"We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys," the company explained. "Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. ... We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users' data.

Microsoft CEO Says Encryption Backdoors Are A ‘Terrible Idea’, by Russell Brandom, The Verge

“I do think backdoors are a terrible idea, that is not the way to go about this,” Nadella said. “We’ve always said we care about these two things: privacy and national security. We need some legal and technical solution in our democracy to have both of those be priorities.”

Along those lines, Nadella expressed support for key escrow systems, versions of which have been proposed by researchers in the past.

Activating Modes

macOS Beta Hints At Future 'Pro Mode' To Boost Performance On Portable Macs, by Filipe Espósito, 9to5Mac

The latest macOS Catalina 10.15.3 beta build contains references to a new “Pro Mode,” which can be turned on and off by users. Some strings mention that “Apps may run faster, but battery life may decrease and fan noise may increase” and “Fan speed limit overridden” when the Pro Mode is activated.

Low Power Mode For Mac Laptops: Making The Case Again, by Marco Arment

Please, Apple, make this feature official: give us a Low Power Mode for macOS that disables Turbo Boost to keep our laptops cool, quiet, and long-lasting at times when those are more important to us than speed.


Apple Introduces 'Reality Converter' App To View, Edit USDZ 3D Objects On Mac, by AppleInsider

Developers are able to modify the resulting file by customizing material properties with new textures, editing metadata and more. In addition, the resulting 3D objects can be previewed under various lighting and environmental conditions thanks to built-in IBL options, a useful tool for evaluation in an augmented reality space.


Get Ready For More Phones With No Buttons, by Julian Chokkattu, Wired

First, they came for headphone jacks. Buttons are next.

The Dark Side Of CAPTCHA, Google's Annoying, Ineffective Security Tool, by Hussein Kesvani, MEL

The answer probably has less to do with security and privacy, and more with tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon pivoting to A.I.-driven automation and relying on us to train their bots for free — and without our knowledge.


And, of course, there’s a darker side to all of this.

Bottom of the Page

My very first iPhone -- the iPhone 3G -- was retired by me because the Home button stopped working. From that point on, I was wary of the home buttons of every single iPhone I owned. I was so happy when I upgraded to iPhone X.

The side and volume buttons never gave me problems. I always wanted a physical play/pause button, just like the old iPods. But I guess that button has migrated to my ears. (AirPods, that is.)


Thanks for reading.