The Download: Apple fixes MacBook Pro thermal throttling

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

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Apple issues fix for 2018 MacBook Pro CPU throttling, thermal management issues via macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update

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Apple has issued a fix for its 2018 MacBook Pro lineup’s thermal management issues and subsequent throttled performance through a software update. 

“Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we’ve identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro. A bug fix is included in today’s macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended.

“We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70 percent faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2x faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.”

An Apple spokesperson, to CNET

The issue affects all of Apple’s new MacBook Pro models with a Touch Bar.

eBay adds support for Apple Pay, partners with Square Capital on seller financing

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eBay will begin accepting Apple Pay on its marketplace starting this fall, and has teamed up with Square Capital on seller financing. The changes come as eBay continues to distance itself from former subsidiary PayPal, after the company switched to Adyen as its primary payments processing partner earlier this year.

At the time, eBay said that PayPal would continue to be an option at checkout but Adyen would become the default over time.

Now eBay is adding another option to the mix with Apple Pay support, which the company is calling “the first step” towards offering its millions of buyers more choice in their payment options. Apple Pay was called “among the first forms of payment” that the marketplace has planned.

The rollout will begin on a limited scale this fall, allowing buyers to purchase with Apple Pay in iOS and Safari to check out on the mobile web and eBay’s app.

“Apple Pay is one of the most ubiquitous forms of payments and provides users with an easy, fast, and secure way to pay. Offering Apple Pay as a form of payment on eBay is the first step in providing more choice and flexibility in payment options to our tens of millions of buyers.”

Steve Fisher; eBay senior vice president of payments, in a statement

The company’s shift to its new payments experience will continue in 2019, and it expects to have most of its marketplace shifted by 2021. Apple Pay will become available to more customers across more inventory and in more regions worldwide in the interim.

In related news, eBay announced a separate partnership with Square Capital to help U.S. sellers with financing to grow their businesses.

Sellers will be able to apply for $500-$100,000 of financing for any business need, including things like payroll, inventory, marketing, or equipment, among other things. eBay stressed the importance of offering selling working capital, citing a small business survey that found 70 percent of small businesses didn’t receive the funding they wanted.

Square Capital’s system for offering financing involves very few steps compared to the alternative of filling out longer loan forms. Once approved, the funds can reach sellers in as little as one business day. Meanwhile, the borrowing cost never changes during the life of the loan, so sellers know what they can expect in terms of payments.

“Expanding access to capital, including to those who have been underserved when seeking funding, is core to Square’s purpose of economic empowerment. Square Capital understands the needs of small businesses and facilitates a single, seamless funding experience. We’re proud to partner with eBay and enable more sellers across the U.S. to invest in growing their business.”

Jacqueline Reses, Square Capital head

According to eBay, select sellers will begin to receive emailed invitations to apply for Square Capital loans starting in the third quarter of 2018.

Chrome 68 shows “not secure” warning for any HTTP website

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The day that Google predicted three and a half years ago when Google Chrome would warn users of the security risks of using the web’s HTTP protocol to deliver web pages to your browser has come.

Chrome version 68 gives new visibility to a broad effort to stop surveillance, tampering, and security risks on the web by showing a “not secure” warning for any HTTP website. Instead, Google wants to push website operators to use the encrypted HTTPS protocol.

Google announced the warning in a blog post on Tuesday.

“This makes it easier to know whether your personal information is safe as it travels across the web, whether you’re checking your personal information is safe as it travels across the web, whether you’re checking your bank account or buying concert tickets.”

Emily Schechter, Google Chrome security product manager

The “not secure” warning indicates that you’re not as protected if someone attempts to hack you. This could occur when you’re on open networks in public places like coffee shops, airplanes, hotels, or airports as middlemen inject advertisements, monitor communications, or otherwise tamper with websites.

Facebook set up Chinese subsidiary with $30M of registered capital to set up innovation hub for supporting startups

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Facebook has opened Lianshu Science & Technology, a Chinese startup incubator based in Hangzhou that has $30 million in registered capital. The firm will advise small businesses and make minor investments, according to records. 

Lianshu’s shares are owned entirely by Facebook’s Hong Kong branch. Facebook told the Washington Post that it’s “Interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang,” which would follow similar efforts in France, Brazil, India, and Korea. Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province.

Filings: BitTorrent acquired by blockchain startup Tron for $126M

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File sharing company BitTorrent has been acquired by blockchain company Tron.

“BitTorrent will continue operating from Tron’s new San Francisco location, which is now the center of operations for the company’s global market expansion. The division will provide robust support for Tron’s global business development and partnerships, while pursuing its vision for the world’s largest decentralized ecosystem.”

BitTorrent, in a blog post

According to documents filed with the California Secretary of State, Tron paid approximately $126 million in cash for the company.

EU fines Asus $74.1M, Philips $34.8M, Pioneer $11.7M, Denon & Marantz $8.9M for online price fixing

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The European Union’s antitrust authorities have issued a series of penalties, fining Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips, and Pioneer roughly $130M collectively for imposing fixed or maximum resale prices on their online retailers in breach of EU competition rules.

According to the EU, the four companies engaged in “fixed or minimum resale price maintenance (RPM)” by restricting the ability of their online retailers to set their own retail prices for widely used consumer electronics – like kitchen appliances, laptops, and hi-fi products.

Asus was hit with the largest fine ($74.1M), followed by Philips ($34.8M), Pioneer ($11.7M), and Denon & Marantz ($8.9M).

The Commission found that the manufacturers placed pressure on e-commerce outlets that offered their products at low prices.

“If those retailers did not follow the prices requested by manufacturers, they faced threats or sanctions such as blocking of supplies. Many, including the biggest online retailers, use pricing algorithms which automatically adapt retail prices to those of competitors. In this way, the pricing restrictions imposed on low pricing online retailers typically had a broader impact on overall online prices for the respective consumer electronics products.”

The European Commission, in a statement

They also noted the use of “sophisticated monitoring tools” by the manufacturers that let them “effectively track resale price setting in the distribution network and to intervene swiftly in case of price decreases.”

“The price interventions limited effective price competition between retailers and led to higher prices with an immediate effect on consumers.”

The European Commission

Asus was particularly found to have monitored retailers’ resale prices for certain computer hardware and electronics products like laptops and displays in Germany and France between 2011 and 2014.

Meanwhile, Denon & Marantz was found to have engaged in “resale price maintenance” for audio and video consumer products like headphones and speakers from the Denon, Marantz, and Boston Acoustics brands in Germany and the Netherlands between 2011 and 2015.

Philips was found guilty of the same offense in France between the end of 2011 and 2013 for a range of consumer electronics, including coffee machines, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, home cinema and home video systems, electric toothbrushes, hair dryers, and trimmers.

Pioneer’s case involved products like home theatre devices, iPod speakers, speaker sets, and hi-fi products. According to the Commission, the company also limited the ability of its retainers to sell cross-border to EU consumers in other member states to sustain different resale prices in different member states like by blocking orders of retailers who sold cross-border. 

Its conduct lasted from the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2013 and involved the countries of Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway.

In all four cases, the Commission said that the level of fines were reduced – 50% for Pioneer and 40% for each of the others – due to the companies’ cooperation with its investigations by providing evidence with “significant added value” and that they “expressly acknowledg[ed] the facts and the infringements of EU antitrust rules.”

“The online commerce market is growing rapidly and is now worth over 500 billion euros in Europe every year. More than half of Europeans now shop online. As a result of the actions taken by these four companies, millions of European consumers faced higher prices for kitchen appliances, hair dryers, notebook computers, headphones, and many other products. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules. Our decisions today show that EU competition rules serve to protect consumers where companies stand-in the way of more price competition and better choice.”

Margrethe Vestager, European Commission competition policy head

“Since the start of the EU investigation in late 2013, which Philips reported in its Annual Reports, the company has fully cooperated with the EC. Philips initiated an internal investigation and addressed the matter in 2014.

“It is good that we can now leave this case behind us, and focus on the positive impact that our products and solutions can have on people. Let me please stress that Philips attaches prime importance to full compliance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations. Being a responsible company, everyone in Philips is expected to always act with integrity. Philips rigorously enforces compliance of its General Business Principles throughout the company. Philips has a zero tolerance policy towards non-compliance in relation to breaches of its General Business Principles.”

A Philips spokesperson

Anticipating the decision of the European Commission, the spokesperson said that the company already recognized a $35.1 million provision in its Q2 2018.

Steam rolling out Steam Chat with text and voice features to all users

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Steam has begun rolling out its new text and voice features for Steam Chat, along with its updated friends list, to all users beginning today.

The new updates are mainly based in design and chat versatility. Now you can share GIFs along with social and video links with friends in Steam Chat, sort friends by favorites, group your friends by game and by party, and maintain group chats akin to Discord servers. Steam Chat also adds built-in voice chat with perks like channels and link inviting that are found in Discord.

All of this raises the question of if this can help Steam compete with Discord, which has become a household name in the minds of PC gamers looking to chat with their friends. 

Uber begins putting self-driving cars back on public roads in Pittsburgh, but only in non-autonomous mode

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Uber is putting its autonomous vehicles back on Pittsburgh’s public roads, but only in non-autonomous mode.

The company’s modified Volvo XC90s will only be manually driven by humans under a new set of safety standards including real-time monitoring of its test drivers and efforts to increase simulation.

The sensors, including LiDAR, will be operational on the self-driving cars and will be used to help Uber update its HD maps of Pittsburgh.

According to Uber Advanced Technologies Group head Eric Meyhofer, the manual-first rollout is a step towards the ride-hailing company’s ultimate goal of relaunching its autonomous vehicle testing program in Pittsburgh.

Uber said on Tuesday that all of the company’s autonomous vehicles will have two Uber employees inside regardless of if they’re driven manually or not. These “mission specialists” as Uber calls them will have specific jobs. The person behind the wheel will be responsible for maintaining the vehicle’s safety, and the second specialist will document events.

The company’s also equipping every self-driving vehicle with a driver monitoring system that will remain active whenever the vehicle is in use. The system will track driver behavior in real time. An audio alert will cue the driver if inattentiveness is detected. An alert will also be sent to a remote monitor that will take appropriate action once they’ve assessed the situation.

Safeguards include the team being called immediately back if the system detects that the driver is looking at a firm, according to a company spokesperson, as well as a defensive and distracted driving course conducted on a test track and fatigue management program that requires the two mission specialists in each vehicle to periodically switch between driver and data logger.

According to Uber, Volvo’s emergency braking and vehicle collision warning systems will be enabled while the vehicle is in manual mode. Engineers are examining whether Volvo’s safety system can work in conjunction with its own self-driving technology while the vehicle is in autonomous mode.

In other news…

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