Graham Spencer

878 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university, and a fan of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

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Apple’s Town Hall: A Look Back

Jason Snell and Stephen Hackett have taken a look back at the products that Apple has introduced at their Town Hall venue since the iPod in 2001. Timely, because today's Apple Keynote will also be held at Apple's Town Hall.

Located at 4 Infinite Loop on Apple’s main campus, the Town Hall conference center was probably designed more for in-company meetings than for major events covered by worldwide media. And yet on numerous occasions over the years, it’s been exactly that.

Monday’s event in Town Hall could very well be the last hurrah for the old 300-seat venue, given that Apple is constructing a 1,000-seat auditorium in its new campus, due to open next year. Before it goes, here’s a look back at key public events in Town Hall, starting in late 2001.

Be sure to watch the accompanying video from Stephen Hackett which features clips from the various Town Hall media events.

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Apple Events App Now Available on the Apple TV App Store

As first reported by 9to5Mac, a new 'Apple Events' channel is now available on the fourth-generation Apple TV's App Store. The app will enable you to live stream the upcoming Apple keynote on Monday, March 21 at 10am PDT. In the meantime you can also re-watch Apple's previous keynotes going back to WWDC 2014.

Unlike the Apple Events channel on older Apple TVs, which automatically appeared on the Apple TV on the day of the event, fourth-generation Apple TV owners will have to manually download the Apple Events app from the App Store.

Apple has previously announced that the keynote will also be live streamed on its website if you use Safari on iOS or OS X, or the Microsoft Edge browser on a PC. Apple has also stated that the second and third generation Apple TV will also be able to stream the keynote. Although the Apple Events channel is not yet available on those older Apple TVs, in previous years it has appeared on the Apple TV a few hours prior to the keynote.

More screenshots of the Apple Events app for the fourth-generation Apple TV are embedded below.

You can also follow all of the MacStories coverage of Monday's Apple keynote through our March 21 Keynote hub, or subscribe to the dedicated March 21 Keynote RSS feed.

[via 9to5Mac]

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Apple Launches Advertising Campaign for Apple News

Speaking of Apple News, Peter Kafka of Re/code reports that Apple has started an advertising campaign focused on the iOS 9 app.

Remember Apple News? Figured. Apple would like to change that, so it’s launching an ad campaign promoting the news aggregator it launched, without much fanfare, last fall.

If you’re in San Francisco, Chicago or New York, you might see the ads on billboards and in airports; the rest of you will have to look for it online.

You can see two examples of the billboards in Re/code's article, one featuring ESPN and the other featuring VICE – but Kafka notes that Apple is also working with Vox Media.

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Apple News Format Now Available for All Publishers

Emily Jane Fox, writing for Vanity Fair, yesterday reported that Apple has now opened the Apple News Format to independent publishers:

Apple News’s 40 million users are about to have a lot more articles to read. The iPhone maker announced Tuesday the launch of a new Web-based editing tool that will open its native iOS news platform to independent publishers of all sizes.

Since Apple launched the app in September, it has attracted more than 100 major publishers as partners, including this magazine’s Web site. What the new launch means is that anyone—from individual bloggers to smaller, independent news organizations—will be able to edit and deliver their stories, videos, galleries, and audio in the Apple News format, with Apple News’s reach.

Content can be published in Apple's News app either via RSS or the Apple News Format. Up until now, the Apple News Format has been invitation-only and limited to large publishers such as Vanity Fair, Vox, and CNN. The advantage for publishers in using the Apple News Format is that it gives them greater control over the look of their stories in the News app, they get detailed analytics information, and can earn revenue through iAd.

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Last Week Tonight With John Oliver on Encryption

HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver tackled the Apple-FBI fight over encryption in this week's episode and did a phenomenal job. As always, Oliver uses humour as a tool to help illuminate the absurdity of various propositions, whilst also keeping people engaged when the topic is dry or complicated. As a result, this 17 minute video is perfect for anyone, even if you haven't been paying much attention to this encryption debate so far.

You can watch the video on YouTube, but be warned it is NSFW. For those of you in countries where the video is geo-blocked (ugh), you should also be able to view it on the Last Week Tonight Facebook page.

Be sure to stick around to the end as there's a brilliant satirical Apple advert that you really have to see.

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Craig Federighi on Encryption and the FBI’s Demands

Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at Apple, writing for The Washington Post:

That's why it’s so disappointing that the FBI, Justice Department and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies. They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013. But the security of iOS 7, while cutting-edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers. What’s worse, some of their methods have been productized and are now available for sale to attackers who are less skilled but often more malicious.

A cogent argument from Federighi. It follows on from Tim Cook's open letter and interview with ABC News, as well as Bruce Sewell's testimony to a congressional committee.

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Transmission Infected with KeRanger Ransomware

It was discovered this weekend that popular BitTorrent client Transmission was infected with what is believed to be the first fully functional ransomware on OS X. Palo Alto Networks discovered the infection and report that attackers infected two installers of version 2.90 of Transmission's Mac app with the ransomware, dubbed KeRanger, on March 4. The ransomware works by encrypting all files in the "/Users" and "/Volumes" directories and then demands payment of 1 Bitcoin (~US$400) from victims in order to decrypt and retrieve their files.

It is not yet known how the Transmission installers were infected. Palo Alto Networks promptly disclosed the ransomware to the Transmission Project and Apple, and both have taken swift action. Transmission has since been updated to 2.9.1 (removing the ransomware from the installer) and 2.9.2 (automatically removing KeRanger if it had been installed on a user's system). Whilst Apple has revoked the certificate used to install KeRanger, updated Gatekeeper to block the malicious installer, and updated its XProtect (Apple's built-in anti-malware software) signatures.

How to Protect Yourself

The following is excerpted from Palo Alto Networks' report on KeRanger. We recommend you read their full report if you would like further, and more detailed, information.

Users who have directly downloaded Transmission installer from official website after 11:00am PST, March 4, 2016 and before 7:00pm PST, March 5, 2016, may be been infected by KeRanger. If the Transmission installer was downloaded earlier or downloaded from any third party websites, we also suggest users perform the following security checks. Users of older versions of Transmission do not appear to be affected as of now.

[via MacRumors, Palo Alto Networks]


Apple Launches @AppleSupport Account on Twitter

As first reported by MacRumors, Apple has today launched @AppleSupport, a support account on Twitter:

Apple today created an official Twitter support account to provide customers with tips, tricks, and tutorials about the company's product and services. One of the account's first tweets provides users with step-by-step instructions on how to turn lists into checklists in the stock Notes app on iPhone.

Apple's presence on social media is slowly but surely expanding. This is now the second support account that Apple runs on Twitter, following last October's launch of @AppleMusicHelp which provides help and tips relating to Apple Music.

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Developers: Apple’s App Review Needs Big Improvements

Since the App Store launched in 2008, every app and every app update has gone through a process of App Review. Run by a team within Apple, their objective is to keep the App Store free from apps that are malicious, broken, dangerous, offensive or infringe upon any of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines. For developers who want to have their app on the iOS, Mac, or tvOS App Store, App Review is an unavoidable necessity that they deal with regularly. But in the public, little is heard about App Review, except for a few occasions in which App Review has made a high-profile or controversial app rejection (such as the iOS 8 widgets saga) or when App Review has mistakenly approved an app that should never have been approved (such as the app requiring players to kill Aboriginal Australians).

Earlier this year we set out to get a better understanding of what developers think about App Review. We wanted to hear about their positive and negative experiences with App Review, and find out how App Review could be improved. It is hard to ignore from the results we got, from a survey of 172 developers,1 that beneath the surface there is a simmering frustration relating to numerous aspects of App Review. There is no question that App Review still mostly works and very few want to get rid of it, but developers are facing a process that can be slow (sometimes excruciatingly so), inconsistent, marred by incompetence, and opaque with poor communication. What fuels the frustration is that after months of hard work developing an app, App Review is the final hurdle that developers must overcome, and yet App Review can often cause big delays or kill an app before it ever even sees the light of day.

Developer frustration at App Review might seem inconsequential, or inside-baseball, but the reality is that it does have wider implications. The app economy has blossomed into a massive industry, with Apple itself boasting that it has paid developers nearly $40 billion since 2008 and is responsible (directly and indirectly) for employing 4 million people in the iOS app economy across the US, Europe and China. As a result, what might have been a small problem with App Review 5 years ago is a much bigger problem today, and will be a much, much bigger problem in another 5 years time.

App Review is not in a critical condition, but there is a very real possibility that today’s problems with App Review are, to some degree, silently stiffling app innovation and harming the quality of apps on the App Store. It would be naïve of Apple to ignore the significant and numerous concerns that developers have about the process.

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