Desktops (Apple)

Ask Slashdot: What Should A Mac User Know Before Buying a Windows Laptop? 449

New submitter Brentyl writes: Hello Slashdotters, longtime Mac user here faced with a challenge: Our 14-year-old wants a Windows laptop. He will use it for school and life, but the primary reason he wants Windows instead of a MacBook is gaming. I don't need a recommendation on which laptop to buy, but I do need a Windows survival kit. What does a fairly savvy fellow, who is a complete Windows neophyte, need to know? Is the antivirus/firewall in Windows 10 Home sufficient? Are there must-have utilities or programs I need to get? When connecting to my home network, I need to make sure I ____? And so on... Thanks in advance for your insights.
Businesses

"Maybe It's a Piece of Dust" (theoutline.com) 529

An anonymous reader shares a report: I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer's black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn't respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken -- it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice. "Maybe it's a piece of dust," the Genius had offered. The previous times I'd been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem -- a misbehaving keyboard -- Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn't believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. "Hold on," I said. "If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?"
Businesses

Traditional PC Sales Continue To Slide (zdnet.com) 223

Sales of traditional PCs continue to decline, although the overall PC market is likely to grow slightly next year. From a report: Traditional PC shipments are forecast to drop by nearly eight percent this year, and another 4.4 percent in 2018, predicts analyst firm Gartner. Which means that, by 2019, 16 million fewer traditional PCs and notebooks will be sold than were shipped this year. However, much of this will be offset by the rise in spending on high-end notebooks like Microsoft's Surface and Apple's MacBook, so that the overall PC market will by 2019 be at pretty much the same level it was last year. Tablets -- defined by Gartner as basic and utility ultramobile devices -- will also decline over the period to 2019.
Technology

The Impossible Dream of USB-C (marco.org) 350

Marco Arment, a prominent developer best known for co-founding Tumblr, explains things that are still crippling USB-C, despite being around for years and being used in mainstream products. Arment writes: While a wide variety of USB-C dongles are available, most use the same handful of unreliable, mediocre chips inside. Some USB-A dongles make Wi-Fi drop on MacBook Pros. Some USB-A devices don't work properly when adapted to USB-C, or only work in certain ports. Some devices only work when plugged directly into a laptop's precious few USB-C ports, rather than any hubs or dongles. And reliable HDMI output seems nearly impossible in practice. Very few hubs exist to add more USB-C ports, so if you have more than a few peripherals, you can't just replace all of their cables with USB-C versions. You'll need a hub that provides multiple USB-A ports instead, and you'll need to keep your USB-A cables for when you're plugged into the hub -- but also keep USB-C cables or dongles around for everything you might ever need to plug directly into the computer's ports. Hubs with additional USB-C ports might pass Thunderbolt through to them, but usually don't. Sometimes, they add a USB-C port that can only be used for power passthrough. Many hubs with power passthrough have lower wattage limits than a 13-inch or 15-inch laptop needs. Fortunately, USB-C is a great charging standard. Well, it's more of a collection of standards. USB-C devices can charge via the slow old USB rates, but for higher-powered devices or faster charging, that's not enough current.
Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Puts Desktop Brains in a Laptop Body (wired.com) 141

David Pierce, writing for Wired: As Microsoft went to create the Surface Book 2, the company once again tried to bust categories. The result is the most combinatory device Microsoft's made yet. It's a laptop (screens measure 13 or 15 inches; there's a keyboard and trackpad) -- and it's also a tablet (the screen detaches, you can use a pen, everything's touch-friendly), and it's also a desktop. A stupendously powerful one, at that: It runs on Intel's new eighth-generation quad-core processors, in either a Core i5 or Core i7 version. The higher-end models come with Nvidia's GeForce discrete graphics, up to 16 gigs of RAM, and as much as 1 terabyte of solid storage. All that in a fanless body that gets up to 17 hours of battery life, and weighs about 3.5 pounds for the smaller model or 4.2 pounds for the larger. What does all that mean? Microsoft claims the smaller model is three times more powerful than the last Surface Book, and the 15-inch runs five times as fast. Those are meaningless comparisons, but the point holds. This thing screams. More useful are the comparisons to Apple's latest MacBook Pros: Microsoft claims up to 70 percent more battery life, and double the performance of Apple's laptops.
AI

Hackers Can Take Control of Siri and Alexa By Whispering To Them in Frequencies Humans Can't Hear (fastcodesign.com) 116

Chinese researchers have discovered a vulnerability in voice assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Huawei. It affects every iPhone and Macbook running Siri, any Galaxy phone, any PC running Windows 10, and even Amazon's Alexa assistant. From a report: Using a technique called the DolphinAttack, a team from Zhejiang University translated typical vocal commands into ultrasonic frequencies that are too high for the human ear to hear, but perfectly decipherable by the microphones and software powering our always-on voice assistants. This relatively simple translation process lets them take control of gadgets with just a few words uttered in frequencies none of us can hear. The researchers didn't just activate basic commands like "Hey Siri" or "Okay Google," though. They could also tell an iPhone to "call 1234567890" or tell an iPad to FaceTime the number. They could force a Macbook or a Nexus 7 to open a malicious website. They could order an Amazon Echo to "open the backdoor." Even an Audi Q3 could have its navigation system redirected to a new location. "Inaudible voice commands question the common design assumption that adversaries may at most try to manipulate a [voice assistant] vocally and can be detected by an alert user," the research team writes in a paper just accepted to the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.
Portables (Apple)

'The MacBook Pro's One-Year-Old Signature Feature Touch Bar Has No Future, But Users Are Required To Pay a Premium For It' (chuqui.com) 284

Chuq Von Rospach, a former Apple employee and commentator, has criticized the MacBook-maker to force consumers to pay extra for the Touch Bar -- a signature feature of the last year's MacBook Pro lineup -- in order to have the highest-end MacBook Pro currently available. He writes: The current [MacBook Pro] line forces users to pay for the Touch Bar on the higher end devices whether they want it or not, and that's a cost users shouldn't need to pay for a niche technology without a future. So Apple needs to either roll the Touch Bar out to the entire line and convince us we want it, or roll it back and offer more laptop options without it. [...] So what's the future of the Touch Bar? I don't know. I'm not sure Apple does, either. I was fascinated that when Apple released the iMacs earlier this year not one word was mentioned about the Touch Bar or Touch ID and support for them via an updated keyboard or trackpad was nowhere to be found. I'm taking that as an indication that after the lackluster response to this with the laptop releases, they've gone back to the drawing board a bit before rolling it out further.
Safari

Safari Should Display Favicons in Its Tabs (daringfireball.net) 189

Favicon -- or its lack thereof, to be precise -- has remained one of the longest running issues Safari users have complained about. For those of you who don't use Safari, just have a look at this mess I had earlier today when I was using Safari on a MacBook. There's no way I can just have a look at the tabs and make any sense of them. John Gruber, writing for DaringFireball: The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don't have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs. With many tabs open, there's really nothing subjective about it: Chrome's tabs are more usable because they show favicons. [...] Once Safari gets to a dozen or so tabs in a window, the left-most tabs are literally unidentifiable because they don't even show a single character of the tab title. They're just blank. I, as a decade-plus-long dedicated Safari user, am jealous of the usability and visual clarity of Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open. And I can see why dedicated Chrome users would consider Safari's tab design a non-starter to switching. I don't know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari's tabs, but I can only presume that it's because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari's toolbar area. [...] And it's highly debatable whether Safari's existing no-favicon tabs actually do look better. The feedback I've heard from Chrome users who won't even try Safari because it doesn't show favicons isn't just from developers -- it's from designers too. To me, the argument that Safari's tab bar should remain text-only is like arguing that MacOS should change its Command-Tab switcher and Dock from showing icons to showing only the names of applications. The Mac has been famous ever since 1984 for placing more visual significance on icons than on names. The Mac attracts visual thinkers and its design encourages visual thinking. So I think Safari's text-only tab bar isn't just wrong in general, it's particularly wrong on the Mac.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Releases First Public Beta Of iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad 56

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac: Apple has released the first macOS High Sierra public beta for Mac. This allows users who are not registered developers to test pre-release versions of macOS with new features for free. Prior to the public beta availability, macOS High Sierra has only been available to test with a $99/year developer account. You can register for the free public beta program here. [Note: some outlets report that the update is still "coming soon." [...] Apple has released the first iOS 11 public beta for iPhone and iPad. This allows users who are not registered developers to test pre-release versions of iOS with new features for free. You can register for the free public beta program here..
Portables (Apple)

Apple Announces New iMacs With Better Screens And Modern Processors; Refreshes MacBook Lineup (arstechnica.com) 134

Apple today announced updates to its iMac line and MacBook lineups at WWDC, giving its all-in-one desktop, and laptop series more powerful specifications and the latest Intel chips. From a report: Apple is bringing Intel's 7th generation Kaby Lake processors to the new iMac, along with what Apple calls "the best Mac display ever," offering 500 nits of brightness, or 43 percent brighter than the previous generation. The 21.5-inch model now can be configured up to 32GB of RAM, while the 27-inch goes up to 64GB, twice what had previously been offered. The new iMacs also are getting two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, making it Apple's first desktop computer to embrace the port standard. Graphics cards are getting a spec boost in the updated iMacs, too. The entry level 21.5-inch model will have an Intel Iris Plus 640 GPU, while the 4K 21.5-inch models will get Radeon Pro 555 and 560 graphics cards. Meanwhile, the 27-inch 5K model will have a choice of Radeon Pro 570, 575, and 580 graphics cards, topping out at 8GB of VRAM. The 21.5-inch iMac will start at $1099 and the 4K 21.5-inch model at $1299. As expected, Apple also refreshed the MacBook lineup. From a report: Today Apple provided a minor but wide-ranging refresh to its modern MacBooks and MacBook Pros, adding new processors from Intel and making a handful of other tweaks. The new processors are from Intel's "Kaby Lake" family, and some of them have been available for the better part of a year. Compared to the outgoing Skylake architecture, Kaby Lake introduces a gently tweaked version of Intel's 14nm manufacturing process, provides small boosts to CPU clock speeds, and supports native acceleration for decoding and encoding some kinds of 4K video streams.
Businesses

Apple Piles On the Features, and Users Say, 'Enough!' (nytimes.com) 191

In a few hours, Apple will kickstart its annual developer conference. At the event, the company is expected to announce new MacBook laptops, the next major updates for iOS and MacOS, new features of Siri, and a home-speaker. Ahead of the conference, The New York Times has run a story that talks some of the headline announcements that Apple announced last year: one of which was, the ability to order food, scribble doodles and send funny images known as stickers in chats on its Messages app. Speaking with users, engineers and industry insiders, the Times reports that many of its existing features -- including expansion of Messages -- are too complicated for many users to figure out (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: The idea was to make Messages, one of the most popular apps on the iPhone, into an all-purpose tool like China's WeChat. But the process of finding and installing other apps in Messages is so tricky that most users have no idea they can even do it, developers and analysts say.
Intel

Apple To Refresh Entire MacBook Lineup Next Month, Air and Pro To Feature Kaby Lake (bloomberg.com) 234

Apple will unveil new laptops during its annual developer conference, known as WWDC, next month, reports Bloomberg. The company is going to refresh the MacBook Pro (as well as Air and just the 'MacBook' models) with new seventh-gen processors from Intel, the newest available, the report adds. Last year, Apple launched three new MacBook Pro laptops with older sixth-generation chips, which means people who already own the newer model may be a bit dismayed by Apple's refresh. From the article: Apple is planning three new laptops, according to people familiar with the matter. The MacBook Pro will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Apple is also working on a new version of the 12-inch MacBook with a faster Intel chip. The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple's cheapest, remain surprisingly strong, one of the people said.
Chrome

Should You Leave Google Chrome For the Opera Browser? (vice.com) 303

mspohr shares a report written by Jason Koebler via Motherboard who makes the case for why you should break up with Chrome and switch to the Opera browser: Over the last few years, I have grown endlessly frustrated with Chrome's resource management, especially on MacOS. Admittedly, I open too many tabs, but I'd wager that a lot of you do, too. With Chrome, my computer crawls to complete unusability multiple times a day. After one too many times of having to go into Activity Monitor to find that one single Chrome tab is using several gigs of RAM, I decided enough was enough. I switched to Opera, a browser I had previously thought was only for contrarians. This, after previous dalliances with Safari and Firefox left me frustrated. Because Opera is also based on Blink, I almost never run into a website, plugin, script, or video that doesn't work flawlessly on it. In fact, Opera works almost exactly like Chrome, except without the resource hogging that makes me want to throw my computer against a brick wall. This is exactly the point, according to Opera spokesperson Jan Standal: "What we're doing is an optimized version of Chrome," he said. "Web developers optimize most for the browser with the biggest market share, which happens to be Chrome. We benefit from the work of that optimization."

Slashdot reader mspohr adds: "I should note that this has also been my experience. I have a 2010 MacBook, which I was ready to trash since it had become essentially useless, coming to a grinding halt daily. I tried Opera and it's like I have a new computer. I never get the spinning wheel of death. (Also, the built-in ad blocker and VPN are nice.)" What has been your experience with Google Chrome and/or Opera? Do you prefer one over the other?

Microsoft

Microsoft Thinks USB-C Isn't Ready For the Mainstream (digitaltrends.com) 293

When Microsoft unveiled the Surface Laptop last week, it left many customers and members of the press scratching their heads over its lack of a USB Type-C port. According to general manager of Surface Engineering, Pete Kyriacou, Microsoft seems to think that the technology isn't ready for the mainstream. Digital Trends reports: Microsoft does not want customers to deal with the various Type-C cables, underwhelming chargers, all the adapters, and the third-party Type-C docks. That is why the Surface Laptop features only one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, one headphone jack, one Mini DisplayPort connector, and the Surface Connect port. Simplicity. That latter connection is how customers can "safely" expand their Surface device experience. Microsoft's $200 Microsoft Surface Dock adds two Mini DisplayPort connectors, one gigabit Ethernet port, four USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports, and one audio out port. The dock connects to a compatible Surface device via Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect port. Right now, it works with the Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Book but the Surface Laptop will undoubtedly be added soon. While limiting a Surface device's connectivity seems like forcing customers into purchasing the dock, Microsoft sees this setup as brand stability. Customers won't get ticked at Microsoft because they are confused about the different types of cables, chargers, and so on. Microsoft is controlling the end-to-end experience and there is nothing wrong with that.
Microsoft

Surface Laptop Can Be Switched To Windows 10 Pro For Free Until 2018 (cnet.com) 150

An anonymous reader shares a report: Don't let the new Windows 10 S operating system stop you from buying a Surface Laptop this year. The streamlined OS limits you to using applications that are in Microsoft's Windows Store. But, as noted in the tech specs for Microsoft's new ultraportable, if you'd rather run non-Store apps, you can switch to Windows 10 Pro for free until December 31, 2017. Once 2018 hits, the switch to Pro will cost $49. But be warned: Once you upgrade your license key, you can't go back.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils the Surface Laptop, a Traditional Notebook That Is 'Better' Than MacBook Pro (engadget.com) 247

On the sidelines of Windows 10 S and affordable Chromebook-like laptops announcements, Microsoft also announced the newest addition to its Surface computing lineup. Dubbed the Surface Laptop, the laptop starts at $999, and is for everyone, the company claims, though the focus is on students and professionals. From a report: The Surface Laptop includes a 13.5-inch PixelSense display (Microsoft's branding for its unique screen technology) and a keyboard draped in Alcantara, a smooth cloth-like material. It's powered by Intel's most recent Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, and it can pack in an SSD up to 1TB (that's notably integrated directly onto the motherboard). Performance-wise, Microsoft's Surface head, Panos Panay, claims the Laptop is 50 percent faster than the Core i7 MacBook Air while also being lighter. (Editor's note: Panos added that the Surface Laptop also outpaces the MacBook Pro on performance.) You can also expect up to 14.5 hours of battery life, thanks to Windows 10 S's battery savings and more efficient hardware. One thing you won't see on the Surface Laptop: Speaker holes or grills. Microsoft managed to fit the speakers behind the keys, which Panay claims delivers a more enveloping sound. Microsoft says it has also improved the standby time -- so much so that "you could go away on spring break and still have the same battery life when you returned."
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Forces Recyclers To Shred All iPhones and MacBooks (vice.com) 224

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple released its Environmental Responsibility Report Wednesday, an annual grandstanding effort that the company uses to position itself as a progressive, environmentally friendly company. Behind the scenes, though, the company undermines attempts to prolong the lifespan of its products. Apple's new moonshot plan is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate. But documents obtained by Motherboard using Freedom of Information requests show that Apple's current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could do: Salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap. Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused -- instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass. "Materials are manually and mechanically disassembled and shredded into commodity-sized fractions of metals, plastics, and glass," John Yeider, Apple's recycling program manager, wrote under a heading called "Takeback Program Report" in a 2013 report to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. "All hard drives are shredded in confetti-sized pieces. The pieces are then sorted into commodities grade materials. After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale."
Power

Study Shows Laptop Batteries Often Don't Last As Long As They Say (digitaltrends.com) 87

A new study conducted by Which? magazine has found that "the battery life claimed by laptop manufacturers rarely lives up to reality. "Although Apple's battery life claims were the closest to reality, in the case of some other manufacturers, their laptops lasted hours less than the stated time," reports Digital Trends. From the report: In its testing, Which looked at the battery life claims of 67 different laptop models from manufacturers as diverse as Asus, Apple, Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba -- some of the world's most popular laptop makers. It found that while Apple's average claim of 10 hours was proven correct -- and was even slightly better in some cases -- Dell's claims were overstated by more than four hours, and HP, close to five. The times listed in the header image are the average claimed battery life for all of the laptops Which? has tested over the past year versus the times it recorded in its internal testing. That involved charging the laptops to full, then running them down to nothing three times, using online web browsing via Wi-Fi or watching local videos to do so. Out of all laptops tested, the only manufacturer to understate battery claims was Apple. In one case, it claimed that its MacBook Pro 13 could achieve 10 hours of usage, while tests suggested it could go for as long as 12 hours. At the other end of the spectrum though, there were some really egregious overstatements. The Lenovo Yoga 510 has a claimed battery life of five hours -- it only lasted two hours and seven minutes. The HP Pavilion 14-al115na is supposed to be able to run for nine hours, but was only capable of four hours and 25 minutes. The Acer E15 claimed six hours but ran for just under three hours.
Patents

Apple Explores Using An iPhone, iPad To Power a Laptop (appleinsider.com) 76

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has filed a patent for an "Electronic accessory device." It describes a "thin" accessory that contains traditional laptop hardware like a large display, physical keyboard, GPU, ports and more -- all of which is powered by an iPhone or iPad. The device powering the hardware would fit into a slot built into the accessory. AppleInsider reports: While the accessory can take many forms, the document for the most part remains limited in scope to housings that mimic laptop form factors. In some embodiments, for example, the accessory includes a port shaped to accommodate a host iPhone or iPad. Located in the base portion, this slot might also incorporate a communications interface and a means of power transfer, perhaps Lightning or a Smart Connector. Alternatively, a host device might transfer data and commands to the accessory via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless protocol. Onboard memory modules would further extend an iOS device's capabilities. Though the document fails to delve into details, accessory memory would presumably allow an iPhone or iPad to write and read app data. In other cases, a secondary operating system or firmware might be installed to imitate a laptop environment or store laptop-ready versions of iOS apps. In addition to crunching numbers, a host device might also double as a touch input. For example, an iPhone positioned below the accessory's keyboard can serve as the unit's multitouch touchpad, complete with Force Touch input and haptic feedback. Coincidentally, the surface area of a 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is very similar to that of the enlarged trackpad on Apple's new MacBook Pro models. Some embodiments also allow for the accessory to carry an internal GPU, helping a host device power the larger display or facilitate graphics rendering not possible on iPhone or iPad alone. Since the accessory is technically powered by iOS, its built-in display is touch-capable, an oft-requested feature for Mac. Alternatively, certain embodiments have an iPad serving as the accessory's screen, with keyboard, memory, GPU and other operating guts located in the attached base portion. This latter design resembles a beefed up version of Apple's Smart Case for iPad.
Security

Edge, VMWare, Safari, And Ubuntu Linux Hacked at Pwn2Own 2017 (trendmicro.com) 83

The 10th annual Pwn2Own hacking competition ended Friday in Vancouver. Some of the highlights:
  • Ars Technica reports one team "compromised Microsoft's heavily fortified Edge browser in a way that escapes a VMware Workstation virtual machine it runs in... by exploiting a heap overflow bug in Edge, a type confusion flaw in the Windows kernel and an uninitialized buffer vulnerability in VMware."
  • Digital Trends reports "Samuel Grob and Niklas Baumstark used a number of logic bugs to exploit the Safari browser and eventually take root control of the MacOS on a MacBook Pro, [and] impressed onlookers even more by adding a custom message to the Touch Bar which read: "pwned by niklasb and saelo."
  • Ubuntu 16.10 Linux was also successfully attacked by exploiting a flaw in the Linux 4.8 kernel, "triggered by a researcher who only had basic user access but was able to elevate privileges with the vulnerability to become the root administrative account user..." reports eWeek. "Chaitin Security Research Lab didn't stop after successfully exploiting Ubuntu. It was also able to successfully demonstrate a chain of six bugs in Apple Safari, gaining root access on macOS."
  • Another attacker "leveraged two separate use-after-free bugs in Microsoft Edge and then escalated to SYSTEM using a buffer overflow in the Windows kernel."

None of the attendees registered to attempt an attack on the Apache Web Server on Ubuntu 16.10 Linux, according to eWeek, but the contest's blog reports that "We saw a record 51 bugs come through the program. We paid contestants $833,000 USD in addition to the dozen laptops we handed out to winners. And, we awarded a total of 196 Master of Pwn points."


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