The Download: Apple’s souped up Macbook Pros

This is The Download, a weekday recap of the top technology headlines.

Apple updates 13-inch, 15-inch MacBook Pros with Touch Bar with latest Intel processors, more RAM, True Tone display technology, more storage, quieter keyboards

Apple_macbook_pro_update_True_Tone_Technology_07122018

Apple has updated its MacBook Pros with Touch Bars with newer processors, more configuration options, True Tone displays, and a “quieter” keyboard design. To be clear, there have been no updates to the baseline 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys, the 12-inch MacBook, or the MacBook Air.

Let’s start with the processors: the 15-incher is going to steal the show here with a hex-core, eighth-generation Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processor clocked at a base speed of 2.9GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz and the ability to upgrade with up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM and 4TB of storage. The GPUs are Radeon Pros with 4GB of video memory. Now, a maxed-out 15-inch model is going to cost you an arm and a leg (not really) but $6,699 is pretty close in my book while the baseline model keeps its previous $2,399 price.

The 13-inch model gets quad-core i5 or i7 chips, with clock speeds maxing out at 2.7GHz with a Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz. That’s paired with Intel Iris 655 integrated graphics with 128MB of eDRAM and up to 2TB of storage. Pricing for the base model also stays the same here at $1,799.

In both cases, the battery capacity has been stepped up to compensate for the processor’s and RAM’s extra power draw to maintain Apple’s signature 10 hours of projected battery life. The port selection is also the same with four USB-C/Thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack.

They’ll also come with True Tone display technology on both the main panel and the Touch Bar, which like its iPad counterpart let the screen change its color temperature based on the color temperature of the room you’re in.

In addition, these are Apple’s first laptops to support “Hey Siri,” which lets you invoke the digital assistant by speaking instead of hitting a specific key combo. That feature is powered by the specialized T2 chip.

Official leather sleeves are also coming to the MacBook Pro lineup after the 12-inch MacBook got them last year in black, brown, and dark blue.

And then there are the keyboards, which many MacBook buyers have seen as much of a liability (if not more) than the aforementioned port situation. Apple has tweaked them this time around with the third-generation butterfly switches to make them quieter than last year’s model.

However, Apple says that this keyboard wasn’t designed to solve the issues some MacBook owners had of a single grain of sand leaving one key or the entire keyboard useless in some cases.

Related reading: The Verge’s Sam Byford on Apple’s collaboration with digital cinema and camera company Blackmagic on a Radeon Pro 580-powered external GPU with 8GB of video memory that’s available now for $699, TechCrunch’s Matt Burns on iFixit’s teardown discovering a silicone dust cover inside the new keyboards & AppleInsider’s Mike Wuerthele on Apple silently discontinuing the 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

FYI: If you’re a college student looking to pick up a MacBook Pro or iPad Pro ahead of the fall semester (like yours truly is), Apple is throwing in a pair of Beats as part of its annual Back to School promotion on Apple.com and in Apple retail stores.

Facebook defends keeping Infowars on platform during event for presenting info about work to “prevent the spread of fake news”

facebook-logo

Facebook invited several journalists to its New York offices on Wednesday afternoon for a presentation and Q&A session with News Feed head John Hegeman. During that interview, CNN reporter Oliver Darcy asked Hegeman about Facebook’s decision to allow Alex Jones’ conspiracy news site Infowars on its platform.

Hegeman responded by saying that the company doesn’t “take down false news,” and went as far as insisting that Jones’ site didn’t violate Facebook’s rules.

“I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards. I think part of the fundamental thing here is that we created Facebook to be a place where different people can have a voice. And different publishers have very different points of view.”

John Hegeman, Facebook News Feed head

News Feed product specialist Sara Su followed up by saying that Infowars’ conspiracy theories can be “really problematic.” Su claimed that Infowars operates in a gray area, dancing with the line of provably false but not always crossing in, suggesting that the company is focusing its takedown efforts on outlets that “can be proven beyond a doubt to be demonstrably false.”

A Facebook spokesperson further clarified to CNN that it might still choose to downrank Infowars content.

“We allow people to post it as a form of expression, but we’re not going to show it at the top of News Feed.”

A Facebook spokesperson, to CNN

Microsoft launches free version of Teams with 10GB of team storage; Microsoft 365 launches live events with facial recognition

Microsoft 365 live event

Two big enterprise stories from the world of Microsoft today from the company’s Inspire conference in Las Vegas: First, Microsoft 365 can now host live events in a features equipped with AI-powered features like facial recognition of attendees and autonomous speech-to-text conversion so participants can search video transcripts.

Once an event ends, employees can skim video through timestamps, specific words, and scanning through participants’ faces.

Employees watching an event can chime in with questions and comments through the dedicated events page before, during, and after events.

In addition to giving a word-for-word account of what was said during a meeting, transcriptions can be used to do things like automatically assign tasks or analyze company culture based on the language people use.

Many other features distinguish 365 live events from typical group video chats, like blurring the background, splitting a screen between a presenter and PowerPoint presentation, and turning on Do Not Disturb mode automatically during events to avoid distractions and background notifications.

An event organizer can cue up events ahead of time and give them structure by coordinating the order of presenters with accompanying content like photos, videos, and PowerPoints.

Live events work with Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Stream, and Office 365.

In other news, Microsoft Teams is now free to use – bringing in on par with competitors Slack and Facebook’s Workplace tool. Free use is capped at 10GB of team file storage in addition to 2GB of storage per user.

Related reading: The Verge’s Tom Warren on Microsoft’s collaborative Whiteboard app for Windows 10.

Court order: Justice Department will appeal AT&T-Time Warner merger approval

ATT-Time Warner

According to court documents, the Justice Department will appeal the approval of AT&T’s merger with Time Warner.

“The Court’s decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned. While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances. We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.”

David McAtee; AT&T general counsel, in a statement

Related reading: My story with Carol Alfonso for Grasswire on US District Judge Richard Leon approving the merger last month.

Facebook changes privacy settings after outing closed medical support group members

CNBC reports that the BRCA Sisterhood group, a support network for women at genetic risk for breast cancer, wasn’t as private as its members anticipated.

The group was created as a support system for women with the BRCA gene, a mutation that greatly increases the risk of breast cancer and often results in preemptive mastectomy. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, the group was listed as “private.” But while the content of the group was closed, the group’s membership was broadly visible and inadvertently revealed sensitive medical information.

Sisterhood members learned of the loophole through a Chrome extension that let one of the members download detailed information for thousands of members in minutes. This isn’t a new issue however, as private group membership has long been visible on a user’s Facebook page. Bulk member lists could also be downloaded through a loophole involving the Group ID. Facebook acknowledged that member lists are pretty much public in a help page, saying that “anyone” could see the title and member list for a closed group.

Groups can have private member lists if they’re set as “secret,” but that would make the group inaccessible in search results – a problem for the BRCA Sisterhood, which was actively soliciting membership from women affected by the mutation.

Facebook appears to have made a change to membership privacy in late June, but didn’t publicly announce it. According to a current Facebook help page, only current members can see the membership of a closed group now.

Robinhood expanding cryptocurrency trading product with Litecoin & Bitcoin Cash

Robinhood

Robinhood is expanding its cryptocurrency trading product with Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash. However, the feature is only available in the 17 US states where you can trade crypto on Robinhood.

According to the company, there’s no fee on cryptocurrency trading.

The startup won’t act as an exchange, instead acting as a broker for other exchanges.

Unfortunately, Robinhood doesn’t let you manage your wallet addresses – meaning that you can’t send or receive tokens from another wallet.

In other news…

  • Honda is teaming up with Panasonic to begin testing the swappable rechargeable batteries it debuted this year at CES to Indonesia, where they’ll power electric mobility products, specifically electric bikes.
  • Twitter banned accounts for both DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 after the US indicted Russian officers over the DNC hacks.
  • Canadian company Opener has revealed its newest vehicle, called BlackFly, an one-person aircraft that can travel up to 25 miles at a speed of 62 miles per hour.
  • The Xbox One’s next update is set to bring support for Dolby Vision, the company’s in-house High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology, with support coming to Blu-ray discs this fall.
  • Facebook has hired Shahriar Rabii to lead its silicon development efforts. Rabii led the group that designs chips for Google’s hardware, including the Pixel Visual Core imaging chip.
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