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Big Announcements From WWDC 2017

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A few weeks ago, Google held its I/O developer conference, where they laid out the vision for the future of Android and its various services. This week is Apple’s turn at their own World-Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). Apple usually uses the headlining keynote to outline updates to their major software platforms. This year they delivered those software updates as usual but with a few hardware surprises thrown in there. In the weeks leading up to WWDC, the internet was awash with rumors about a smart speaker to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home as well as a new iPad. Let’s dive in and check out the biggest announcements from WWDC:

iOS 11

The newest version of Apple’s most popular operating system, iOS 11, brings a slew of new features centered around social interactions. The Google Assistant, Siri, is now able to translate sentences into different languages. Siri can also use machine learning capabilities to gradually learn your habits and make suggestions automatically based on how the device is being used. The Control Center was also updated slightly to condense all of the controls to one page (hooray, no more swiping over for music controls!) and 3D Touch can be used to expand those controls.

iMessages was also updated with the ability to synchronize conversations between Apple devices, meaning that if you delete a conversation on your iPhone, it’s also deleted on your Mac as well. Apple is also integrating a peer to peer (P2P) payment system directly into iMessage. Previously, most people would use a third-party app such as Venmo or Square Cash to send payments to their friends or businesses. Now, you can simply use iMessage to send and receive money using Apple Pay. The payments are transferred to a special “Apple Pay Cash Card” which can then be transferred to your bank. Because this P2P payment system only works inside of iMessage, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to use it outside of the Apple ecosystem (sorry Android owners). However, it does make transferring money to family and friends who use Apple products that much easier without having to use a third-party service like Venmo.

Live Photos are updated with the ability to be edited. Now users can create small GIFs from the Live Photo. The photos themselves can also be edited with Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, showing off by changing a woman’s hat to a totally different color. Those changes in Photos can also be imported into third party photo editing apps such as Photoshop.

While Apple didn’t introduce any new features to CarPlay, they did introduce a new safety feature that is able to recognize if you are driving and will turn on the Do Not Disturb to prevent any distractions. The App Store has been completely redesigned and looks more in line with how Apple Music looks. The tabs at the bottom now have dedicated sections for Apps and Games. The redesign is supposed to improve app discovery and visibility.

For the past few months, Apple has been heavily touting the iPad as a tablet that can replace your laptop. How well it will do depends on the user but to further the point, iOS 11 introduces several new features specifically for the iPad to increase productivity. There is improved multitasking that allows users to drag an app from the dock and onto the screen for split screen. Information can also be dragged from one side screened app to another, with Federighi again showing a demo where he dragged texts and pictures from one app into the Mail app. Finally, Apple created a Files app that allows users to manage files similar to a desktop (the app itself was leaked a few hours before the event started though). Power users have wanted Apple to allow access to a file system for a long time and Apple finally gives some kind of desktop feature that allows that. The Files app can also connect to external cloud storage such as Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

Apple also showed off the augmented reality (AR) capabilities of iOS 11 and is banking on AR being used more on mobile devices like phones and tablets rather than dedicated headsets. Apple is releasing ARKit to allow developers to create AR apps for iOS devices.

macOS High Sierra, tvOS 11, and watchOS 4

Unlike recent years where a new macOS introduced tons of new features, this year’s update featured at WWDC is more of an incremental update. In fact, the new version will be called High Sierra (which is similar to when Apple went from Leopard to Snow Leopard). With this new version, it comes with a new file system called Apple File System (APFS). APFS was first introduced in the iOS 10.3 update. Along with other improvements, this new file system speeds up file transfers with native encryption. The Photos app has additional editing features and Safari will automatically block web trackers to stop those annoying autoplay videos (I’m looking at you CNN). There is also a new Metal graphics API called Metal 2 that supports VR (and AR) and external AMD graphics cards.

Apple’s tvOS wasn’t particularly showcased at WWDC this year, however, Apple CEO Tim Cook did announce that the Amazon Prime Video is coming to Apple TV. Most of the newer features of tvOS such as, new background modes and notifications, custom sound support, and automatic light/dark switching are buried in the release notes.

The Apple Watch operating system, watchOS 4, introduces a few new watch faces such as Siri and Toy Story characters. The Siri face will display information such as reminders as well as a feature dedicated complication to access Siri directly. Of course, being fitness focused, watchOS 4 also allows Apple Watches to pair with gym equipments in order to receive the most accurate workout and calorie information.

Hardware

Because WWDC is a developer conference, most of the announcements are centered on software. However, Apple took this time to introduce a few new surprising hardware announcements.

Apple unveiled a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro which features Apple’s new A10X CPU and a 12 core GPU. The screen supports HDR video and can run up to 120 Hz refresh rate. This is especially important for the Apple Pencil as the increased refresh rate allows much finer control and responsiveness. The refresh rate changes dynamically depending on what’s happening on screen in order to maximize battery life. The new iPad Pro starts at $650 for 64GB of storage and goes up to 512GB of storage.

In regards to the iMac, Apple is finally updating their all-in-one computer with Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake chips. The screens are 43 percent brighter and it displays more colors. The 21.5” iMacs get upgraded Intel Iris Plus GPUs while the 4K models get AMD Radeon Pro 555 and 560 graphics cards. The top end 5K 27” iMac  gets Radeon Pro 570, 575, and 580 graphics cards. These are the most significant updates to the iMac since 2015. But wait, there’s more! In addition to upgrading the existing iMacs, Apple introduced the all new iMac Pro at WWDC. Until the new Mac Pro comes out, the iMac Pro will be the most powerful computer Apple has ever made. It ships with an 8-core Intel Xeon processor which can be configured all the way up to a whopping 18 cores. It also features a 5K display and the new AMD Radeon Vega GPU. Save up your pennies because the entry level iMac Pro starts at $5,000. Apple also took the time to make minor spec bumps to the new Macbook line by upgrading them to Kaby Lake as well.

Apple also introduced the HomePod, it’s smart speaker is to compete with the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple calls it a “breakthrough” speaker that will reinvent music like the iPod did. Those are pretty bold claims but sound-wise, the HomePod seems to deliver. Covered in a mesh material, the shape is reminiscent to the Mac Pro “trash can” look and features, an array of seven tweeters and a subwoofer. The A8 chip inside utilizes technology that Apple calls, “special awareness” that allows it to automatically tune the sound to match the makeup of whatever room it’s in. Naturally, it’s also integrated with Siri and Apple Music, the form of which has been upgraded to answer numerous music queries. Apple says that Siri is able to hear commands even when the music is blasting full tilt. Because Siri is built in, most of the abilities Siri has on iOS is also available here, such as asking for; weather, news, sending iMessages, and creating reminders and timers. HomePod also integrates with HomeKit for centralized control of your HomeKit devices. In an apparent dig at Amazon and Google, information sent to Apple is encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier. The HomePod doesn’t ship until December and will cost $350 when it releases.

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Snap Spectacles Drops Vending Machine In Philly

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When you know Snapchat’s Snapbot is going to pop up in your city, you go. That’s exactly what happened today in Philadelphia, just in time for Valentine’s Day! Local non-profit Visit Philly was a big player in getting Snap Spectacles into the City of Brotherly Love.

 

 

Driving into Center City and parking a block away from the destination, we hurried into Dilworth Park and got in line as a drone flew over us documenting the entire thing. Seeing the Snapbot in person is an experience in itself. The bright yellow box with one eye and a smile stood solo in front of the infamous LOVE statue in front of City Hall as eager customers waited patiently in line to get their hands on a pair or two of the Spectacles. Going for $129.99 per pair, the Snapchat glasses ran out in just a few hours. For those who weren’t able to make it, see where they’re popping up next!

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Everything You Need to Know About The Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal

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Cambridge Analytica

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal is dominating the news. From Elon Musk to Keith Weed, experts in the industry have been keeping a close eye on the story’s development around the globe. So, how did the scandal come to be and where is it going from here?

A Tale of Two Lawsuits

The giant scandal engulfing Facebook and user privacy has made lesser-known Cambridge Analytica a household name. Cambridge Analytica is a British, data-driven, political consulting company. Cambridge Analytica contracted Kogan GSR to harvest data from Facebook users via an application called This Is Your Digital Life.

The application was created in 2014 and banned in 2015 from Facebook when they realized that Kogan “lied” about the utilization of their harvested data. They reportedly ordered Kogan and all parties given access to that data to delete it.

There are two lawsuits raging against SCL Group (CA’s parent company), Kogan GSR and Facebook in the UK and US. The lawsuit in the UK is by Jason McCue, who alleges that the defendants abused the human right to privacy.

The case aims to ensure that violation of privacy will not happen again in the future, specifically the extraction of names, phone numbers, mail and email addresses, religious and political affiliations and other data.

About 270,000 users installed Kogan’s application to take a personality quiz, so why is the number 70 million affected? The permissions on the application allowed Kogan to collect data from friends of the 270,000 users who took the quiz.

While these users’ willingly gave out personal information, Kogan claimed the information would have an academic application. The lawsuit asserts the information was, in fact, used for commercial and political services. The 70 million user figure only covers those affected in the US. worldwide, that number is estimated to be almost 87 million, with over 1 million in the UK alone.

The US-based lawsuit puts the pressure on Facebook. Lead Counsel for the case, Robert Ruyak places heavy blame on Facebook, stating that Facebook failed to secure the personal information of millions of its users, in addition to failing to take appropriate action even when aware of this failure.

The Current Pulse of Litigation

Cambridge Analytica

In the past few weeks, there has been an influx of memes associated with Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is testifying in the US lawsuit though refused the UK’s request to interview for their lawsuit. The US lawsuit is still ongoing and continues to generate more questions than answers.

The affair also highlights how out of touch many in Congress are with current technologies, with videos of aging Congressmen struggling to understand some of Zuckerberg’s tech-based answers and reply in kind. In the UK, the Cambridge Analytica and Kogan investigation is also ongoing.

An Uncertain Future for Facebook Stocks

Facebook saw its first downgrade since January this Wednesday. Stocks fell 1.7%. However, the company has seen an overall increase of 3.9% in its stock since the scandal broke in mid-March.

With a lack of consumer confidence, both companies are not as enticing to veteran investors as they once were.

A Leaderless Organization

News first broke about the scandal via the New York Times on March 17, 2018. A Channel 4 news video leaked the following Monday, adding further evidence to the claims asserted. The video produced footage of CA’s CEO, Alexander Nix, seemingly engaging in illegal political techniques such as entrapment.

Nix was suspended the following day and recently stepped down from the CEO position. Alexander Taylor, CA’s chief data officer, sat down as quickly as he stood up to take the CEO position, serving only a few days. It is unclear who will lead the company during this tumultuous time. Alexander Nix refused parliament’s request to testify, showing additional distaste from the general public.

The Future of Digital Privacy

There is an aura of doubt clouding the general public’s faith that Facebook will take preventative actions to ensure a data breach of this level does not occur again. Many wonder how Silicon Valley’s brightest minds could let a mistake this large pervade its data for over a year. More importantly, Facebook did not alert authorities to the morally gray and illegal data collection.

With scandals like Equifax’s 2017 data breach still fresh, the public sees an unwillingness for companies to take responsibility. The unspoken protocol of these breaches appears to err on the side of deception rather than transparency. Equifax was aware of their breach, which exposed nearly half of the US population’s personal financial information, weeks ahead of the news breaking.

Additionally, the company sought to turn a profit by offering data-protection services after the incident. Even more frustrating, is that the only recourse for consumers affected was to freeze their credit and to unfreeze credit comes with fees.

Facebook

The lack of accountability and transparency means that these data breaches could simply be warning signs of far larger scandals to follow.

When companies are unwilling to make ethical decisions, it’s ideal that laws enter the creation process to ensure the safety of the public. A bipartisan effort is on the way in the US to give power back to the consumer. In a country where regulation is a dirty word, it’s unclear how this effort will be received.

On the tech, innovation side come solutions from a forgotten class of researchers: tech privacy experts. An unglamorous field is now finding itself at the center of fixing a growing problem.

A peer-to-peer decentralized internet (first introduced to the non-tech obsessed via the HBO show Silicon Valley), strong advertising blockers, information fiduciaries (whose purpose is to protect users’ data) and better encryption techniques are all points of notable research. May their innovation spawn a new era of data privacy.

The on-demand economy continues to grow quickly and with it comes many avenues for illicit data collection. There is a struggle to balance convenience with privacy. Tech privacy experts are working to ensure their solutions mesh well with consumers’ expectations for efficiency.

Flailing Confidence

Facebook’s rise as a tech giant may be in jeopardy. Their business model is strongly based on consumer trust. Zuckerberg’s decision not to alert authorities deny a request from parliament, his evasiveness in his testimony with Congress and his negative public image (he’s frequently touted as overly robotic and was presented unfavorably in The Social Network) has generated contempt from many consumers.

The #deletefacebook hashtag also gained organic momentum. For a company dependent on users for profit, a tall order for their public relations team is in store.

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Superbowl 2018 Results – Eagles Won!

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Superbowl 2018 Results – Eagles Won! It was an incredible game played by both the Patriots and the Eagles. With a final score of 41 Eagles to 33 Patriots, the Eagles won their first ever Super Bowl bringing the championship home.

A genius offensive play

The Eagle’s play tonight was purely offensive – and they had to win at all costs. LeGarret Blount rushed for 90 yards and scored a touchdown. Corey Clement could be seen throughout the game rushing for the 108 total yards of offense. And Nelson Agholor’s perfect synchronization with Foles was able to catch 9 passes for a total of 84 yards throughout the game. And we can’t forget Zach Ertz, who scored the final touchdown in the 4th quarter after diving over Devin McCourty. It was a tense moment as everyone in the stadium and at home watching held their breath while waiting for the verdict. Ertz made a brilliant leap of faith and landed just over the end zone, but the ball bounced. Did it hit the ground before bouncing? Were his feet both in the end zone at the time of landing? Was he in possession of the ball in the final seconds of the landing in the end zone? The crowd went wild and Philadelphia has never been more lit when the referees announced it was a touchdown.

Rushing for the win

The Eagles were still behind. The Eagles kept pushing through yard by yard. Nick Foles made a daring move on 3rd-and-7 that ended with Foles completed a phenomenal 11 yard pass to Zach Ertz. Ertz made an olympic worthy leap over Devin McCourty and into the end zone. Ertz narrowly landed both feet in the end zone, but the ball bounced, and was caught again mid-air by Ertz. It was unclear if the ball made contact with the ground which caused the bouncing. It was a tense moment as everyone awaited the referees to review the footage to make the final call. It was determined that Ertz was in possession of the ball before landing on the ground and the touchdown ruling was upheld.

Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett – turning the tides

With 2 minutes and 21 seconds left on the timer and one timeout left, the Patriots were ahead and had everything lined up for the win. And that was when Brandon Graham decided to reveal himself. He’s been hiding from the camera all game and decided it’s now or never. Brandon Graham sacked Brady forcing a fumble which was picked up by Derek Barnett that decided the fate of the game. If it weren’t for Brandon Graham’s bravery and Derek Barnett’s keen reflexes, the game could have been very different. Tom  Brady could be seen on TV sitting on the field not getting up. He knew it was over at that moment. The Eagles had won decisively.

The underdogs and their Foles

Who would ever thought that the backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles only took on the role of starting quarterback after Carson Wentz got injured on week 14 of the season. Foles completed 28 of 43 passes with a total 373 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. Foles even CAUGHT a touchdown in a last minute offensive play where Brady actually failed to catch the ball when attempting a similar play.

Foles was able to consistently convert those 3rd and 4th downs into game changing opportunities the entire game. If you doubted Foles before, he’s proven you and everybody wrong. If you’ve doubted the Eagles before, after tonight’s game, there’s not a doubt in anyone’s mind that these underdogs played their heart out and earned their world title as the winner of the 52nd Super Bowl Championship.

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