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Apple has been having a buggy few months. Now we’ve got a new, serious bug in the text-rendering functionality in iPhones. The bug is triggered by a single Telugu character which can cause an iPhone to enter an unbreakable boot loop just by receiving a notification containing the character. Let’s delve in to why a single character can cause such major problems with iOS.
Note: A fix for the Telugu bug is available in the most recent version of iOS (11.2.6). If the Telugu character has locked up your app or device, restore your iPhone via iTunes and update to the most recent version of iOS. If your iPhone is stuck in a boot loop, you may need to put it in the Device Firmware Update (DFU) state to get iTunes to recognize it. When finished, restore your device from your most recent backup, which you hopefully created.What Is Telugu?
Telugu is a language spoken and written in parts of India, specifically the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and in the town of Yanam. Like many script-based languages, such as Arabic and other Brahmic scripts, Telugu uses some special features of the Unicode character set to display its characters on a computer screen.
While most Latin letters are represented by single 8-bit Unicode code point for ASCII compatibility (for example, the letter A exists at the Unicode code point U+0041, which is represented in binary by 01000001), languages written with script or non-Latin letters typically combine more than one Unicode code point to represent their characters.
This is especially true for languages, like Telugu, which combine the languages’ versions of letters in clusters. Unlike English’s stylistic ligatures, the connection between each Telugu letter is linguistically important. To accommodate this, Unicode includes a complex system of attaching characters, each represented by their own code point, to one another.
Considering the sheer number of Unicode code points, this can create near-infinite variety. These points combine together to render a legible character. This way Unicode doesn’t need a Unicode code point for literally every possible Telugu word. Instead, Unicode combines Telugu consonants, vowels and diacritics (“virama”) together to create words that are displayed like a single character. The same applies to other languages with orthographic rules for ligatures, like Arabic.What Causes the Crash?
The problem seems to be related to the Zero Width Non-Joiner (ZWNJ) at code point U+200C. The ZWNJ requests that two adjacent characters render without their typical ligature. In English, a ZWNJ keeps the characters ﬀ from being printed with their standard connection ligature, instead separating each f. But when combined with a specific set of four Telugu code points (all of which should combine to a single cluster), for some reason iOS can’t display the result properly.
Some have speculated that Apple’s San Francisco font can’t display the character, while others have said that the specific rendering process Apple uses is to blame. Whatever the exact cause, the attempt to render the character causes a dramatic crash of whatever is rendering it, from Messages and WhatsApp to Springboard. The Unicode code points that make up the character (“gya” meaning “knowledge”) are below:
U+0C1C ja ()
U+0C4D a virama, or diacritic mark ( )
U+0C1E nya ()
U+200C zero width non-joiners
U+0C3E aa ( )
But we can’t even blame Zero Width Non-Joiner (ZWNJ) alone. It’s also used in the innocuous family emojis (????) without any issue. It seems to be a specific combination of some specific code points and the ZWNJ. Adding insult to injury, it seems like the ZWNJ either has no particular effect on the rendering on this Telugu cluster or that it shouldn’t even be there in the first place.Other Brahmic Script Problems
Telugu isn’t the only language with this issue, however. Bengali and Devanagari, which use Unicode in a similar way for their Brahmic scripts, has the same problem. Manish Goregaokar writes a fasctinating and detailed blog post that breaks the exact crash case down even further:
3. vowel does not have two glyph componentsConclusion: Why Wasn’t this Caught by Apple?
To understand how this bug got through, you have to put yourself in Apple’s shoes. Sure, this character combination isn’t some super obscure word in the Telugu language. But the iPhone includes support for dozens of languages. There are literally billions of potential combinations in Unicode. With that much variety, meaningful testing for Unicode bugs before a release would make regular software updates basically impossible.
However, the error should not have caused this much damage. Phones shouldn’t get bricked based on the contents of a text message. While hindsight is surely 20/20, it seems like rendering the character as a question mark box (�) would have been better than crashing Springboard.
Alexander Fox is a tech and science writer based in Philadelphia, PA with one cat, three Macs and more USB cables than he could ever use.
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Pictured above: The Paradox iPod nano watch kit
The New York Time’s Nick Bilton, who reported in October Apple’s alleged television plans describing “large parts floating around” Apple’s supply chain that looked like they “could be part of a large Apple television,” is back with a new story. He recently implied Apple’s researched prototyped small and wearable devices.
According to the article published last night, both Apple and Google have worked for years on wearable computers that interface with smartphones (having the ultimate goal of selling more smartphones):
A person with knowledge of the company’s plans told me that a “very small group of Apple employees” had been conceptualizing and even prototyping some wearable devices. […] Apple has also experimented with prototype products that could relay information back to the iPhone. These conceptual products could also display information on other Apple devices, like an iPod, which Apple is already encouraging us to wear on our wrists by selling Nanos with watch faces.
Interestingly, a year ago, Apple hired wearable computer wizard Richard DeVaul. He is believed to be developing secret wearable product prototypes under the guidance of Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design. Specifically, aNew York Times story described a curved glass iPod:
One idea being discussed is a curved-glass iPod that would wrap around the wrist; people could communicate with the device using Siri, the company’s artificial intelligence software.
In September, DigiTimes quoted supply chain sources that claimed Apple was readying unspecified devices sporting curved glass touchscreen for an early 2012 launch. Bilton’s story is in line with 9to5Mac’s recent prediction and sounds similar to Samsung’s flexible AMOLED display technology that is coming to their smartphones and tablets in 2012.
However, even if the New York Times’ report is true, and Apple has in fact been exploring wearable devices, this is no guarantee the company will market any such device as demand for those gadgets may not be big enough. Besides, the company often researches concepts that never see the light of the day, as evident in their numerous patent filings. Eventually, Apple may one day release a wearable iOS device of its own.
For starters, Apple deployed Bluetooth 4.0 technology with 2011 Mac minis and MacBook Airs and continued with the iPhone 4S, which is a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, meaning it can interact with peripherals such as heart-rate monitors or smart watches. In June, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group added Apple to its board of directors for two years, another telling sign. Apple’s latest move to help proliferate Bluetooth 4.0 iOS peripherals involves a China conference for hardware partners to unveil a new certification chip and urge peripheral makers to get busy making Bluetooth 4.0-compliant iOS accessories.
Unlike the previous incarnation, the latest Bluetooth 4.0 specification offers the convenience of an extremely low-power and low-latency wireless transfer up to 50 meters away. Instead of taking up to six-seconds to pair, like current Bluetooth implementations, Bluetooth 4.0 takes just six milliseconds.
Depicted below: Samsung’s vision of the future involving flexible displays and another one showing off a prototype rollable and bendable display (demoed at CES 2011) that can survive blows from a hammer.Related articles
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With Apple Music and Spotify continuing to battle it out over the top streaming music spot, neither company is holding back on new features. Apple’s launch of Lossless and High-Res music ups the game for Apple Music customers who receive this jump in music quality without any additional price increases. This won’t impact the decision for some music listeners, but for many audiophiles, there is huge value in this additional experience. Let’s take a look at Apple Lossless music and how you can start listening.What Is Apple Music Lossless?
When you listen to streaming music, there’s a good chance the audio file has been compressed to help make the transmission to you more seamless. By doing so, each streaming service knows that a little bit of audio quality is sacrificed from the original recording value. In the case of lossless compression, all of the original data or the original audio file format is preserved. Said another way, this is Apple’s opportunity to completely embrace high-resolution audio. Using its proprietary “Apple Lossless Audio Codec,” ALAC for short, you will enjoy more detail with every song.
Of course, Apple isn’t alone in this offering, as alternative services like TIDAL and Amazon Music HD have already begun to offer this service. Amazon beat Apple’s announcement by only a few days, while TIDAL has been offering high-res music for years. Separately, Apple’s biggest competitor, Spotify, has committed to its own lossless tier sometime later this year. One additional consideration is that any live radio on Apple Music – such as Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits or Apple Music Country – will not enable lossless nor will any music video.What Devices Support Lossless?
With the release of ALAC long after the release of the first few AirPods, there’s a big caveat, as AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max (even when wired) will not support lossless music. While each of the named devices supports Apple’s current AAC Bluetooth Codec, Bluetooth connections are not lossless, which is the biggest hurdle toward future AirPods working with this improved audio experience. The same goes for Beats wireless headphones. However, Apple has said that the AirPods Max can connect to Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless recordings with great audio quality. The analog-to-digital conversion takes place in the Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable, so any playback will not be truly lossless.
Last but certainly not least, Apple has stated that support for lossless audio will be added to both the HomePod and HomePod Mini through a future software update.Do Not Forget Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos
While overshadowed during the Lossless announcement, Apple also announced that its entire music catalog will be available in Dolby Atmos which enables Spatial Audio. This means that when you listen to music on compatible headphones, you will feel as though the music is surrounding you. AirPods and Beats or any headphones with either the W1 or H1 chip will automatically have this functionality enabled. Speakers on any modern iPhone, iPad and Mac will also be compatible with a future software update. Third-party headphones will be able to turn on Dolby Atmos in the device settings through Bluetooth.Final Thoughts
For traditional music listeners who value their playlists more than music quality, the difference won’t be immediately apparent. For audiophiles or those who can truly discern between the different types of quality, this is a welcome addition to the Apple Music experience. That it won’t cost any extra is music to our ears.
David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.
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There have been many articles floating around in cyberspace about Apple fearing Samsung, and yet, there are none like the one you are about to read. Most of them will talk about patents; I prefer to talk about facts. Here’s my two cents on this issue.
Samsung Is Bigger Than You Think
Samsung Has A Better Distribution Channel
Apple sells their products through Telcos, Apple Stores the Apple website, and their retail distribution channels. Samsung can sell anywhere they want as long as retailers are willing to take stock. Apple can ban, block and have as many injunctions as they want, but it will not stop Samsung from selling indirectly to consumers. However, if the same ban is applied to Apple, they are in a bad position.
Compared to Apple, Samsung has the ability to quickly expand and saturate the market with their products, bar America – as the telco relationship in the USA require that Samsung create different versions of their phone(s). Apple, on the other hand, sells according to the country tiers. In Malaysia, where I come from, there are “rumours” that refurbished iPhones (instead of new ones) are being circulated to tier 2 countries. This speculation was again emphasized when consumers in China sued Apple for selling refurbished phones.
Samsung also has an existing distribution network from their existing businesses. This is of tremendous value. Unlike Apple, Samsung does not need much in the way of resources to bring their phones and tablets to new markets — unlike Apple. These distribution channels will also be there for the future dissemination of other Samsung products. This means that if they want to, it’s easy for them to market more than just electronics.
Apple’s Leadership Is Suffering Badly
We all mourn the passing of Steve Jobs. He was a leader unlike any other. Whether you’re an Apple fan or an Android enthusiast, you’ve all felt Steve Job’s effect on the world. With Steve gone, and the iPhone 4S looking really bad at the recent launch, it’s hard to say that Apple will continue to have a strong grip on the industry. Apple’s iOS 5 notifications revamp and Siri were acquired from Nuance and not innovated from scratch. It’s hard to imagine that using this management style will enable them to continue to be competitive. I personally find it a shocker that they didn’t release the rumoured teardrop iPhone 5. It would have been the type of launch the company needed at this point of time – instead of the disappointing iPhone 4S.
This is the time for Samsung to shine. What they do now will undoubtedly lead them to where they will be tomorrow. This is the most crucial period for Samsung in the history of their company, as the true test for the Korean giant has begun. Whether they become the next innovative leader or catalyse their own doom will all depend on what they do in the next year.
Samsung Innovates Faster than Apple
What if your Samsung fridge could tell you to pick up milk (or maybe place an order online)?
What if your Samsung TV could identify your favorite TV programs and record them without asking?
What if your Samsung Home could learn to switch air conditioners and lights off when you leave the house?
What if you could download a recipe from the web, and your kitchen teaches you how to prepare and cook it?
What if your Samsung DSLR camera could share your pictures throughout all your devices?
What if your Samsung DVD/Blu-Ray players knows what you like and sends you recommendations of the latest movies?
What if you could do all the above on non-Samsung devices because of Android?
What if this is Samsung’s future?
Two credible sources have suggested that Apple is working on a foldable MacBook display, and that this might unfold to see the largest screen ever created for a portable Apple device – around 20 inches.
We’ve this morning seen one possible take on what such a product might look like, but is Apple really working on something like this? …
First, to answer the question literally: Yes. When two separate sources with good track records both say something is true, then there’s a high likelihood that they are right. Apple almost certainly has a team of people playing with foldable MacBook displays, and it’s likely that one of these is around 20 inches.
Second, there are good reasons to believe Apple believes in the concept. The Touch Bar may have been a misstep, but keyboards that can dynamically change both look and functionality are a very appealing idea. Imagine opening Final Cut Pro, for example, and seeing color-coded icons for things like the blade, hand, and so on, instead of letters.
Will such a product ever make it to market? That, of course, is a completely different question. As we know from numerous patents over the years, the Cupertino company explores all kinds of different ideas, and very few of them ever make it into real-life products.
The biggest objection to the concept as imagined by De Rosa is the idea of a physical keyboard being replaced by a virtual one. Apple got itself in enough trouble just trying to make a physical keyboard thinner.
Anyone who has ever done a significant amount of typing on the on-screen keyboard on an iPad (raises hand) can tell you that it gets pretty painful after a while. And touch-typing is next to impossible without being able to feel physical keys beneath your fingers.
Long-term, this problem may be solvable. Apple has patents for ways to make virtual keyboards feel like real ones. This one, for example:
The reports suggest a product due to launch sometime around 2026/2027. I wouldn’t entirely rule out Apple having this kind of tech working by then, but it does seem a stretch. Especially as you’d hope that the company would proceed with considerable caution after the butterfly keyboard debacle.
However, while I spend a great deal of my time typing, that isn’t true of all Mac users. Some, for example, spend most of their time in Photoshop or Lightroom or Affinity Photo or Pixelmator. Others in Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere or Davinci Resolve. Yet others in Logic Pro or Audacity or Adobe Audition. There are a great many professional Mac users who spend relatively little time typing.
So I could potentially see a device like this having a great deal of appeal to some users. For me, the only question mark is: Are there enough of them to justify making this type of product? That, I think, depends how much people are willing to pay.
I’d argue that it could appeal to at least as many people as the Mac Pro, and Apple is happy to continue making that because it knows that a niche market times a high price equals a worthwhile income. So provided people are willing to pay the kind of price this device is likely to cost, then I could see Apple making it.
Render: Antonio De Rosa
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Apple products are stylish, functional, and durable, so you can’t really blame those who continue buying them year after year. One of the tech giant’s only downsides is that their products are sometimes expensive. Luckily, special discounts, refurbished devices, and great products lend themselves to a lot of fantastic buying opportunities.
Here are 10 Apple devices and accessories on sale:
The AirPods Pro feature Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) for immersive sound, transparency mode that lets you hear your surroundings, and a customizable fit for all-day comfort. They also have force sensors built on the stem to make it easy to control music and answer calls. Plus, they last up to 5 hours on a single charge, which you can extend to 24 hours with the charging case. A pair normally retails for $239, but you can score it on sale for $229.99.
Eliminate cable clutter with this charging station that powers up your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods simultaneously. Rated 4.5/5 stars by verified purchasers, this comes with two 5-foot long MFI-certified lightning cables for faster and safer charging, and with its handcrafted, wooden design, it boosts your workspace’s aesthetic appeal. Normally $89, you can grab it on sale for $71.99.
Ditch the typical Apple Watch charging cable and make charging less complicated with this smart keychain with a built-in microcomputer electronic system. With a strong magnetic absorption, it allows you to adjust the angle freely without deviating from the charger center. It can also accommodate all Apple Watch series. It typically retails for $99, but you can grab a 2-pack for $38.99.
Maintain your productivity on the go with the MacBook Air, which features a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, 256 GB flash storage, and a 1440×900 native resolution. While it’s refurbished, it’s guaranteed to work like a brand new unit. Usually $999, you can get it for just $579.95.
Write, draw, and sketch on tablets with ease with this pen equipped with a 1.2mm fine tip. It allows for better durability, higher sensitivity, and pixel precision and guarantees no lags, skips, or scratches. With Palm Rejection technology and a magnetic design, you can feel free to use it directly without using gloves. Typically retailing for $99, you can get it on sale for $39.99.
As you can tell by the name, this cable is perhaps the last charging cable you’ll ever buy. Designed to function just like Apple’s famous MagSafe cable, it connects to devices in a snap with its N54 grade neodymium magnets. It supports fast charging for Micro USB (Android), Apple USB-C, and USB-C laptops, including MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and can facilitate 2-way full-speed USB 2.0 data transfers at 480mbps between any USB device. It’s normally $55, but you can score it on sale for $24.99.
With this bundle, not only will you get a refurbished (see also: good as new) iPad Mini 4, but you’ll also receive accessories that can make your browsing experience better. It comes with a pre-installed tempered glass, snap-on plastic case, UL certified wall charger, Lightning cable, and the original Apple box. The bundle typically goes for $729, but you can get it on sale for $289.99 for a limited time.
Ideal for people on the move, this charger enables you to charge your Apple Watch virtually anywhere. It also has USB and Micro-USB connectors so you can plug it into an additional device. Formerly $34, it’s on sale for $18.99.
If you own more devices, this charging station can charge up to four of them. It’s built using high-end materials and offers wide compatibility for devices with Lightning, Micro USB, and USB Type-C connectors. It also allows for 360-degree rotation, allowing you to use your device and get the right angle while charging. It usually goes for $49, but you can get it on sale for $29.99.
AirPods are notoriously challenging to clean, but this pen is specifically designed to keep your earbuds in pristine condition. It has a metal tip that can clean the small parts and holes, as well as a soft-light sponge and fine bristle brush that can get rid of the stains or specks of dirt lurking on the sound-hole, case, and other parts. Normally $24, you can get it on sale for $14.99.
Prices subject to change.
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