Category Archives: iOS9

Apple Releases iOS 9.3.3 With Bug Fixes and Performance Improvements

Apple today released iOS 9.3.3 to the public, marking the third minor update to iOS 9 since iOS 9.3 launched in March of 2016. In testing since May 23, there were five betas of iOS 9.3.3 released to developers and public beta testers ahead of the public release of the software.

Today’s iOS 9.3.3 release is available as an over-the-air update for all iOS 9 users and it can also be downloaded through iTunes.

iOS-9.3.3
As a small update, iOS 9.3.3 focuses mainly on under-the-hood performance improvements and bug fixes rather than outward-facing changes.

iOS 9.3.3 is the ninth update to the iOS 9 operating system. iOS 9 will be followed by iOS 10, which has already been provided to developers.

iOS 10 brings a host of new features, including a revamped Lock screen experience, an overhauled Messages app with new functionality and its own App Store, a new Photos app with object and facial recognition, a redesigned Music app, a centralized HomeKit app, and a Siri SDK for developers.

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Know Fast Teaches You Something New Every Day with Short, Informative Videos

Know Fast for iPhone delivers short (less than four-minutes), informative videos to you each day, in categories you choose. It’s a great way to spend a few minutes learning something new and interesting in a field you’re interested in, or just to expand your horizons a bit.

The app itself is fairly simple. Once installed, select categories that interest you, like technology, science, finance, cooking, culture, history, DIY, and more—then watch a short video from one of those categories. Rate it, so the app can deliver better ones to you in the future, share it with your friends if you like, and then sit back and wait for a fresh video to be delivered to you tomorrow.

If it seems a little slower than, say, going to YouTube and binging on all of the DIY videos, it’s intentional—the goal is to give you a quick way to learn something interesting in a short period of time between other things, so it’s easier to make room for it. The videos are also hand-picked, too, so you get good ones (even better if you help rate them.) It’s a quick, simple way to explore a new field, or just make your commute home or idle time more interesting—and educational. The app is free, and available now.

Know Fast (Free) | iTunes App Store via Know Fast

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iOS 9.2 is out, features numerous bug fixes, improved Safari view controller

Apple announced the second major update to iOS 9 since its September launch. iOS 9.2 features a number of bug fixes as well as updates to Apple Music, iBooks, Podcasts and News.

Rather than just relying on algorithmic sorting, as it had done previously, Apple is now going to use human editors to curate a top list of news stories it thinks you’ll want to see each morning and afternoon. The about-face is an interesting one, and should add additional value to a native app that I’m quite fond of already.

Aside from the bug fixes, which are much-needed, the coolest feature update in my opinion is a tweak in the way Safari View Controller handles third-party apps.

The update allows integration with third-party applications so that you have access to LastPass or other applications from within the View Controller window of non-Apple apps, like Narwhal, the popular Reddit app for iOS.

Additionally, iBooks gets 3D Touch support and other native apps, such as Music and Podcasts get minor updates to improve functionality.

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Apple’s Indoor Survey App Creates Building Interior Maps Using an iPhone

Apple has quietly released a new iOS app that allows users to map out the interior spaces of a building using just an iPhone.

While the apps doesn’t show up in search within the App Store, you can grab it using this direct link, first spotted by developer Steve Troughton-Smith. The app’s description reads:

“By dropping ‘points’ on a map within the Survey App, you indicate your position within the venue as you walk through. As you do so, the indoor Survey App measures the radio frequency (RF) signal data and combines it with an iPhone’s sensor data. The end result is indoor positioning without the need to install special hardware.”

Apple bought the start-up wifiSLAM two years ago, and with it the company’s ability to analyze and track RF signals from Wi-Fi access points to maps and determine a user’s location. It seems like at least some of that expertise has crept into Indoor Survey.

Apple’s been experimenting with a series of indoor positioning technologies over the past few years, testing its iBeacons in retail stores and inviting retailers to to submit indoor maps of large, successful stores for use in Apple Maps. Using Indoor Survey to crowdsource indoor maps may finally make them a more common addition to the world of digital navigation.

[Apple Insider]

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Facebook Implements Fix for iOS App Battery Draining Issues

Facebook’s newest iOS update, released yesterday, fixes a major battery draining bug that some Facebook users have been experiencing in recent weeks. Affected users were seeing large amounts of battery drain on their iPhones due to Facebook running in the background, something that happened even when background app refresh was toggled off in the Settings app.

While the latest Facebook app release notes don’t include a reference to the issue, Facebook engineering manager Ari Grant wrote a post explaining the issues behind the battery drain and what Facebook has done to fix it. According to Grant, there were several factors that contributed to the problem, including a “CPU spin” in the network code and silent background audio sessions that kept the app awake even when it wasn’t open.

Facebook-Battery-Drain-IOS9

The first issue we found was a “CPU spin” in our network code. A CPU spin is like a child in a car asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”with the question not resulting in any progress to reaching the destination. This repeated processing causes our app to use more battery than intended. The version released today has some improvements that should start making this better.

The second issue is with how we manage audio sessions. If you leave the Facebook app after watching a video, the audio session sometimes stays open as if the app was playing audio silently. This is similar to when you close a music app and want to keep listening to the music while you do other things, except in this case it was unintentional and nothing kept playing. The app isn’t actually doing anything while awake in the background, but it does use more battery simply by being awake. Our fixes will solve this audio issue and remove background audio completely.

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Find My Friends is now accessible on iCloud.com

Apple has finally made its Find My Friends app available on iCloud.com. The app, which allows users to share their location with friends and family, has become a core app in iOS 9 and can no longer be deleted. (In previous versions of iOS, Find My Friends was an optional download.) Apple has also included Find My Friends in OS X El Capitan, as a Today view widget in the notification center.

Apple has quietly beefed up the slate of apps available on iCloud.com. Last week, the company removed the beta tag from its iWorks suite of apps, bringing the total number of apps available through a desktop browser to 12.

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12 hidden features in iOS 9

But some of iOS 9’s most useful features are a bit more difficult to find. From tools to help you keep your notifications organized to built-in flight tracking, some of the best features in Apple’s latest operating system could be easy to miss.

Here are my favorite hidden features in iOS 9.

1. Wi-Fi Assist

Automatically enabled by default, Wi-Fi Assist is a handy feature for situations when your data connection may be more reliable than Wi-Fi. When enabled, the feature will switch you to cellular data when the Wi-Fi connection gets spotty.

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IMAGE: APPLE

To check it out, head to Settings -> Cellular and scroll all the way to the bottom past your app list.

2. Smarter Calendar app

The Calendar app has gotten a lot more useful. The app is now able to detect things like event invites, flight information and restaurant reservations in your inbox (via the Mail app) and automatically pulls it into your calendar.

IOS9-Cal-app

The app will also send proactive suggestions for events that have a location attached. If you have an upcoming flight, for instance, you’ll get a notification when it’s time to leave for the airport based on current traffic conditions.

3. Flight previews

Speaking of flight information, iOS will also show you a preview of flight information whenever it detects a flight number. Select the hyperlinked flight number from within Mail, Notes or Safari to access the preview.

IMAGE: APPLE
IMAGE: APPLE

4. Select multiple photos at once (finally)

Believe it or not, iOS 9 marks the first time you’re able to easily select multiple photos at once from within the main Photos app. Now, after you tap “Select,” you can hold and drag to choose multiple images.

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5. Organize your notifications

You now have a lot more control over how your notifications menu is organized. You can opt to have notifications appear chronologically, grouped by app or manually sort the order you in which you want alerts to appear. For instance, you can choose to always have your most recent Facebook and Mail notifications appear at the top of your notification queue, regardless of when they came in.

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6. Organize your notes

The Notes app gets some much-needed attention in iOS 9, with embeddable photos and new drawing tools. But the new Notes app also makes it a lot easier to to keep your notes organized with support for folders and the ability to tie notes to your email account or store them locally to your device.

IMAGE: APPLE
IMAGE: APPLE

7. Teach Siri your voice

One of the cooler tricks Siri has learned in iOS 9 is the ability to recognize your voice. Once “Hey, Siri,” commands are enabled, you can set up Siri so the assistant will only respond to your voice saying, “Hey, Siri.”

IMAGE: APPLE
IMAGE: APPLE

8. Share and send voicemails

Finally, an easy way to get voicemails off your phone: iOS 9 allows you to share and send voicemails from the Phone app. You can share messages to iMessage, Mail, or to other apps using an iOS share sheet.

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9. CarPlay

Apple’s in-car infotainment system, CarPlay, has also gotten some enhancements in iOS 9. Besides support for wireless connections, the platform now has a dedicated menu within the main Settings app for pairing your iPhone to your car.

IMAGE: APPLE
IMAGE: APPLE

Additionally, CarPlay now includes support for auto manufacturers’ CarPlay apps, support for in-car hardware controls and audio message playback so you can listen to voice messages sent to your device.

10. Audio app suggestions

Plug headphones into the headphone jack and the lock screen changes to a shortcut of the audio app it thinks you’re most likely to use. These suggestions aren’t just based on the app you use the most though, the feature also takes factors like your location into account in order to provide the most relevant recommendation.

IMAGE: APPLE
IMAGE: APPLE

11. “Leave a message” for missed FaceTime calls

Calling via FaceTime is now a little more like a regular phone call: If you aren’t able to connect with someone via FaceTime, the app now provides a “leave a message option.”

IOS9-Facetime-Leave-Message

12. Navigating between apps

We’ve called it out before but definitely one of the more useful — and easily missed — features of iOS 9 is the ability to easily switch back to the last app you were using. When you switch to a new app from within one of iOS’ built in apps, like Safari or Mail or the App Store, iOS provides a quick shortcut in the top left corner of your display to easily go back to the last app you were using.

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Amazon Prime Video Gets Offline Playback on iOS and Android

Amazon-Offline-Videos

Amazon may not be the most popular video streaming service on the block, but today it got a killer feature that takes it one step closer to its competition: offline video.

iTunes and Google Play have been able to do this for awhile, of course, but those are pay-per-video services. Amazon Prime Video has also had this on the Kindle Fire, but now iOS and Android users can download movies or TV episodes for offline playback, perfect for saving data or watching on an airplane.

It’s currently only available for certain shows and movies, but it’s a decent list. You can download Amazon’s own shows, as well as shows from HBO, NBCUniversal, CBS, and Fox, not to mention some movies—including Epix movies like Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Which, incidentally, Netflix is losing. Yikes.

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Phone and laptop encryption guide: Protect your stuff and yourself

How to encrypt local storage on your Google, Microsoft, and Apple devices.

The worst thing about having a phone or laptop stolen isn’t necessarily the loss of the physical object itself, though there’s no question that that part sucks. It’s the amount of damage control you have to do afterward. Calling your phone company to get SIMs deactivated, changing all of your account passwords, and maybe even canceling credit cards are all good ideas, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Using strong PINs or passwords and various Find My Phone features is a good place to start if you’d like to limit the amount of cleanup you need to do, but in this day and age it’s a good idea to encrypt your device’s local storage if at all possible. Full-disk or full-device encryption (that is, encrypting everything on your drive, rather than a specific folder or user profile) isn’t yet a default feature across the board, but most of the major desktop and mobile OSes support it in some fashion. In case you’ve never considered it before, here’s what you need to know.

Why encrypt?

Even if you normally protect your user account with a decent password, that doesn’t truly protect your data if someone decides to swipe your device. For many computers, the drive can simply be removed and plugged into another system, or the computer can be booted from an external drive and the data can be copied to that drive. Android phones and tablets can be booted into recovery mode and many of the files on the user partition can be accessed with freely available debug tools. And even if you totally wipe your drive, disk recovery software may still be able to read old files.

Encrypting your local storage makes all of that much more difficult, if not impossible. Anyone trying to access your data will need a key to actually mount the drive or read anything off of it, and if you wipe the drive the leftover data that can be read by that file recovery software will still be encrypted even if the new data on the drive isn’t.

There are a few downsides. If you yourself lose the key or if your drive becomes corrupted, for example, it might be more difficult or impossible to recover data. It can slow down performance, especially for devices with processors that don’t provide hardware acceleration for encrypting and decrypting data. But, by and large, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and the slowdown for modern devices should be tolerable-to-unnoticeable.

iOS: Don’t worry about it

As of iOS 8, as long as you set a passcode, your personal data gets encrypted. Apple’s security whitepaper (PDF) for iOS 8.3 and later specifically says that “key system apps, such as Messages, Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Photos, and Health data values use Data Protection by default, and third-party apps installed on iOS 7 or later receive this protection automatically.”

The company also claims that every current iDevice features “a dedicated AES 256 crypto engine built into the DMA path between the flash storage and main system memory,” which ought to limit the impact of this encryption on system speed.

OS X: FileVault

Starting with OS X 10.7 (Lion) in 2011, Apple began supporting full-disk encryption with FileVault 2. In more recent OS X versions, some Macs even offer to encrypt your storage as part of the first-boot setup process, though it’s not the default as it is in iOS.

To encrypt your drive after the fact, go to the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences, and select the FileVault tab. Click Turn On FileVault and you’ll be offered a pair of options: store the key used to unlock your disk somewhere yourself, or choose to store it in your iCloud account. A local recovery key keeps that key off of another company’s servers, but leaves you without recourse if you lose it and you’re locked out of your system. If you do store your key in iCloud (or even if you don’t, for that matter), we strongly recommend enabling two-factor authentication for your Apple ID.

Encrypting your disk doesn’t drastically change the way that OS X works—you just need to put your account password in to unlock the disk before the operating system boots instead of afterward. You’ll also need to specify which local users’ logins can decrypt the disk. Otherwise, just the account that enabled FileVault will be able to turn the machine on. If you ever need to decrypt your Mac, it’s pretty easy if you can log in to the computer or if you have the key available.

Generally speaking, performance for encrypted devices declines less for newer Macs with hardware acceleration—most Core i5s and i7s can do it, but Core 2 Duo Macs cannot.

Android

Despite past promises, new Android devices still aren’t being encrypted by default. Default encryption is an option for OEMs, but outside of Google’s Nexus devices few if any companies are choosing to enable the feature on their phones.

You can still encrypt any relatively modern version of Android pretty easily—these specific steps work for Nexus devices or anything running near-stock Android, but the process should be similar if your phone is using a skin.

Open the Settings app, go to Security, and then tap “encrypt phone” to get the process started. Your phone may ask you to plug it in or charge the battery to a specific level before it will give you the option to encrypt, mostly because interrupting this process at any point is likely to completely corrupt your data partition. You’ll need to protect your phone with some kind of PIN or pattern or password if you haven’t already, and as in OS X your phone will probably require it before the operating system will boot.

To confirm that your phone was encrypted, go to Settings and then Security and look for a small “Encrypted” badge under the “Encrypt phone” menu item. If your phone already says it’s encrypted, you may have one of the new post-Lollipop phones that came with encryption enabled out of the box.

Depending on your phone, encrypting your Android phone or tablet can significantly impact performance. This is the worst for older or slower devices, which can use slower flash memory and filesystems and lack hardware encryption acceleration. The experience is better on newer phones with 64-bit ARMv8 processors and higher-end, faster storage.

Additionally, if you need to decrypt the device later on, there’s no way to do it without wiping and resetting the phone. If your phone came encrypted out of the box, though, there’s no way to decrypt the device without making more extensive software modifications.

Finally, in Android Marshmallow, the Android phones that include external storage are able to encrypt and protect the data on those cards as well as on internal storage.

Chrome OS: Also don’t worry about it

Chromebooks and boxes are pretty locked down out of the box by default, and that extends to encryption of the local storage. As described in the Chromium design documents, ChromeOS uses the eCryptfs filesystem and each user directory is protected by a separate encryption key. Unless you’ve turned on Developer Mode, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Linux

The wide variety of Linux distributions available means that it’s difficult to recommend one tool or script or set of directions that will encrypt your drive.

If you’re running a recent Ubuntu or Ubuntu-based distribution, at least, the OS will offer to encrypt your data when you install it. All you need to do is tick a box. And for anything else, you can always take a look at that list of third-party disk encryption software.

Windows Phone 8.1

Windows Phone 8.1 is odd; it supports encryption, but only when some kind of device management server has told it to encrypt itself. There’s no option for end users to encrypt their own devices on demand.

User-initiated BitLocker encryption should be possible in Windows Phone 10, an update that at least most of the current Windows Phone 8.1 devices should be able to get.

Windows

Windows is a complex operating system that runs on what is by far the widest range of hardware of any operating system here, so encryption is more complicated. We’ll be focusing on the built-in tools included in modern versions of Windows, but if they don’t work for you there are lots and lots of other third-party drive encryption programs you can look into.

There’s a very small chance that the Windows system you’re using is already encrypted by default, at least if you have the right combination of hardware and software. That goes for users of Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 computers who sign into their systems with Microsoft or Active Directory accounts and whose hardware meets the following requirements:

  • Support for the Secure Boot
  • A Trusted Platform Module (TPM). The feature requires TPM 2.0, and most current devices use TPM 1.2.
  • Hardware and firmware support for Windows’ InstantGo (formerly Connected Standby) feature. InstantGo allows a sleeping system to wake up periodically and refresh certain data, like e-mail messages or calendar events. Your smartphone already does the same sort of thing.
  • InstantGo comes with its own set of hardware requirements, including a solid-state boot volume, NDIS 6.30 support for all network interfaces, and memory soldered to the motherboard. The system must also rely on passive cooling when in Connected Standby mode, even if it normally uses a fan.

This encryption method is also used by the handful of Windows RT systems that made it out the door.

The benefit of this method is that it’s automated and it’s available with every edition of Windows, including the Home editions. The bad news is that those hardware requirements are pretty stringent and there’s no way to just add them to a computer you’ve already bought. And the Microsoft account requirement may rankle if you have no desire to use one.

If you want encryption and don’t meet those requirements, your next best bet is BitLocker. It’s got less-stringent hardware requirements, though it works best if your computer includes a TPM. It also needs one of the higher-end versions of Windows. In Windows 10, users of the Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions can all use it. Windows 8.x provides it with the Pro and Enterprise editions, while Windows 7 and Windows Vista require either the Ultimate or Enterprise editions. Home and Bing editions of Windows are universally excluded, as are pre-Vista versions of Windows.

To enable BitLocker on any version of Windows that supports it, head to the desktop version of the Control Panel and click BitLocker Drive Encryption. If you have a TPM, you ought to be able to save your encryption recovery key to an external drive or your Microsoft account, click through all the screens, and come out on the other side with an encrypted laptop. You can choose to encrypt just the used space on the disk (leaving the free space unencrypted), or you can encrypt the full drive.

Many business-class laptops from the last decade or so and some more recent high-end Ultrabooks tend to include TPMs, though it’s never been a key part of Windows’ system requirements. They generally have their own entries in the Device Manager, if you don’t know whether your computer has one.

If you don’t have a TPM, you’re not out of luck, but there are extra steps. By default, BitLocker won’t work without one, but there are several other options available once you flip a switch. The steps:

  • Go to the Start menu search box or use the Windows+R hotkey combo and type in gpedit.msc. This is a local policy editor that works a lot like the group policy editor used in large businesses, the settings just apply to one computer instead of many.
  • Go to Computer Configuration, then Administrative Templates, then Windows Components, then BitLocker Drive Encryption.
  • Select the Operating System Drives folder.
  • Double-click Require additional authentication at startup.
  • Click the “enabled” bubble, and then check the “Allow BitLocker without a compatible TPM” option below.
  • Click OK.

Now head to the Control Panel and open up BitLocker Drive Encryption. From here, you can either use a USB key that will need to be plugged into your computer to unlock the drive every time it boots. Or you can come up with a special password, separate from your account password, that you type at boot to unlock the disk. Backup keys can be saved to an external drive, your Microsoft account, or to some other file on another local or network disk.

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The next versions of iOS and OS X will track your flights

Apple has made much ado of Spotlight’s smart, info-fetching abilities in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, but one relatively undersold feature might just prove a lifesaver if you or your friends are frequent travelers. Both of the upcoming operating systems include a “flight data detector” that can spot mentions of flight numbers in apps and let you peek at that trip’s details (a feature Google Now and Cortana users are already familiar with). This doesn’t just mean the departure or arrival times, either — in many situations, you’ll also get a map showing you where the aircraft should be at that moment. While this won’t replace a dedicated travel app, it’ll be handy if you want to check for flight delays or satisfy your curiosity about an airplane’s location.

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