Archive for August 7, 2020

Friday, August 7, 2020

App Store Requires Facebook Gaming App to Remove Games

Tim Hardwick:

Facebook today joined Microsoft in condemning Apple’s App Store policies, after the company was forced to remove the games feature from its Facebook Gaming app, which launches today on iOS.

In a statement given to The Verge, Facebook said it has had its Gaming app rejected multiple times by Apple in recent months, but Apple cited its App Store guidelines to justify the rejections, claiming the primary purpose of the Facebook Gaming app is to play games.

Facebook says it shared usage data with Apple from its Android Facebook Gaming app that showed 95 percent of activity involves watching streams, but it was unable to change Apple’s stance on the matter.


Tim Cook last week: ’We Want to Get Every App We Can on the Store, Not Keep Them Off’

See also: Seth Schiesel.


Google Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE

Dieter Bohn:

Whether the Pixel 4A will make a better case than those upcoming phones remains to be seen. But I will tell you that after a couple of weeks, I prefer it over the much more powerful $800 Pixel 4.

That’s quite a thing to say because I should remind you that the Pixel 4A costs $349.


So let’s just get right into the Pixel 4A’s best feature: photos. I am happy to report that after dozens of test shots, the Pixel 4A matches the Pixel 4’s quality.


The Pixel 4A has a one-size-fits-all 5.8-inch display. Google is using a hole-punch for the first time, which allows the screen to go closer to the edges. The bezels are still bigger than what you’ll get on a flagship, but they’re smaller than many phones at this price point.

It’s $100 cheaper than the iPhone SE with the same amount of storage, but it has a much slower processor.

Juli Clover:

iPhone SE photos feature a more natural color palette while the Pixel 4a’s photos are cooler in tone, but the Pixel 4a images are sharper and crisper, even when lighting is poor. Google gave the Pixel 4a Night Sight, but Apple’s iPhone SE doesn’t support the Night Mode feature available in more expensive iPhones.

John Gruber:

At this price, with this quality, the Pixel 4A seemingly deserves a major marketing campaign that I don’t think it’s going to get.


Update (2020-08-10): Matt Birchler:

But I think the iPhone SE is still a better deal, especially for people who want to buy a cheapphone and have it last for years.

Why Apple Believes It’s an AI Leader

Samuel Axon:

In the wake of the Apple silicon announcement, I spoke at length with John Giannandrea, Apple’s Senior Vice President for Machine Learning and AI Strategy, as well as with Bob Borchers, VP of Product Marketing. They described Apple’s AI philosophy, explained how machine learning drives certain features, and argued passionately for Apple’s on-device AI/ML strategy.


“Yes, I understand this perception of bigger models in data centers somehow are more accurate, but it’s actually wrong. It’s actually technically wrong. It’s better to run the model close to the data, rather than moving the data around. And whether that’s location data—like what are you doing— [or] exercise data—what’s the accelerometer doing in your phone—it’s just better to be close to the source of the data, and so it’s also privacy preserving.”


Update (2020-08-10): Unfortunately, it’s not clear why Giannandrea believes local models would be more accurate.


Apple was saying this all along but no one really believed them because it sounded like excuse making.

Nick Heer:

One thing Axon appears not to have asked is how Apple grades the success of a machine learning model.


How does Apple’s machine learning team know when a change to something as crucial to the device as the keyboard is a success?

See also: Hacker News.


Infecting macOS via Macro-laden Documents

Patrick Wardle (also: Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai):

Here, we’ll detail the creation of a powerful exploit chain that began with CVE-2019-1457, leveraged a new sandbox escape and ended with a full bypass of Apple’s stringent notarization requirements. Triggered by simply opening a malicious (macro-laced) Office document, no alerts, prompts, nor other user interactions were required in order to persistently infect even a fully-patched macOS Catalina system!


Though one could not longer create a launch agent (due to Microsoft’s patch), I discovered that macOS had no problem allowing malicious code running in the sandbox from creating a login item! Similar to launch agents, login items are automatically launched by macOS each time the user logs in …and run outside the sandbox[…]

See also: The Art Of Mac Malware (tweet).


Renaming Human Genes for Excel

James Vincent:

But [Excel’s] default settings were designed with more mundane applications in mind, so when a user inputs a gene’s alphanumeric symbol into a spreadsheet, like MARCH1 — short for “Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1“ — Excel converts that into a date: 1-Mar.

This is extremely frustrating, even dangerous, corrupting data that scientists have to sort through by hand to restore. It’s also surprisingly widespread and affects even peer-reviewed scientific work. One study from 2016 examined genetic data shared alongside 3,597 published papers and found that roughly one-fifth had been affected by Excel errors.


This week, the HGNC published new guidelines for gene naming, including for “symbols that affect data handling and retrieval.” From now on, they say, human genes and the proteins they expressed will be named with one eye on Excel’s auto-formatting. That means the symbol MARCH1 has now become MARCHF1, while SEPT1 has become SEPTIN1, and so on.


Many gene symbols that can be read as nouns have been renamed to avoid false positives during searches, for example. In the past, CARS has become CARS1, WARS changed to WARS1, and MARS tweaked to MARS1.

Update (2020-08-10): Michael Love:

As long as we’re renaming things around Excel, it would be great if we could change the Pinyin syllable ‘jun’ into something that Excel doesn’t interpret as a month.