Dr. Dre to star in Apple’s first original series

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Rumors swirled late last year that Apple was exploring the possibility of creating its own original programming, possibly to spearhead its streaming TV ambitions. Now, a new report from The Hollywood Reporter claims Apple’s first original content is already filming and it stars one of the company’s most notable faces.

The six-episode series is said to star Beats co-founder and rap mogul Dr. Dre. Dubbed Vital Signs, the rapper (real name Andre Romelle Young) is also executive producing the show alongside producers Aaron Ginsburg and William Green with Paul Hunter at the helm. Dre has experience as an executive producer, putting out last year’s hit Straight Outta Compton which grossed $200 million worldwide.

Vital Signs is described as a semi-autobiographical dark drama. Each episode will reportedly focus on a different emotion and how his character deals with it.

Sources say the series will have no shortage of violence and sex. Filming earlier this week reportedly featured an extended orgy scene with multiple nude extras taking part in simulated sex acts inside a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Interestingly enough, the show will be distributed via Apple Music, the Cupertino-based company’s subscription-based streaming music service. It’s unclear if Apple will simultaneously (or at a later date) put the series on Apple TV or iTunes. As is now common with such original content, the entire season will be released all at once.

No timetable was provided for the show’s release although Apple is said to be bullish on the project.

Apple bans ‘The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’ as it shows “violence against children”

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The excellent The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth may be a bit controversial in its subject matter, but you wouldn’t expect it to receive an outright ban for its content. Apple, however, seems to think that the game’s unsuitable for App Store users: the company has rejected the twin-stick shooter due to its reported depiction of violence toward children.

Tyrone Rodriguez, who is the founder of Binding of Isaac publisher Nicalis, posted a tweet showing Apple’s rejection notice (via Eurogamer). “Your app contains content or features that depict violence towards, or abuse of, children, which is not allowed on the App Store,” it reads.

While the M-rated game is obviously aimed at mature players, Apple’s decision does seem excessive to say the least. Isaac has already appeared on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and PlayStation Vita, and is even available on family-loving Nintendo’s 3DS and Wii U machines – although it was initially rejected by the Japanese company for its “questionable religious content.”

The Binding of Isaac see players take control of the titular Isaac whose mother has trapped him in her basement after the voice of God commanded a sacrifice. The game is a satire of the Binding of Isaac story in the Hebrew Bible in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Developer Edmund McMillen, who was the project lead on The Binding of Isaac, toldVentureBeat: “It’s very obvious that Apple doesn’t think games are art or have any respect for the medium […] It’s sad and very ignorant of them to stand by such a stupid and laughable statement. They basically just told every game developer out there that video games are kids toys with no artistic merit.”

McMillen went on to accuse Apple of double standards by taking this decision. “Yet [Apple is] the same people who allow and encourage obscenely abusive and manipulative money-making tactics in their games marketed toward children,” he said.

We don’t know what the next move will be for the Binding of Isaac team; whether they appeal to Apple, censor the game for the App Store, or decide to abandon the platform altogether, we’ll have to wait and see.

Tim Cook says Apple will appeal judge’s order to unlock San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone

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One day after a judge ordered Apple to help the FBI access the locked iPhone that was owned by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters, CEO Tim Cook has spoken out against the decision, confirming that the company will appeal the order.

Judge Sheri Pym said in a ruling that Apple must give “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators attempting to unlock the data on the iPhone 5c. Authorities want Apple to create software that will circumvent the device’s security system, including a feature that erases all data on the iPhone if the passcode is entered incorrectly ten times.

“What the court is essentially ordering Apple to do is custom-build malware to undermine its own product’s security features, and then cryptographically sign that software so the iPhone will trust it as coming from Apple,” wrote Kevin S. Bankston, director of New America’s Open Technology Institute in an emailed statement toPCWorld.

The auto-delete feature has to be activated by the user, but authorities can’t tell if the function has been enabled in this case.

As prosecutors don’t know the passcode, they can’t access Farook’s work-issued iPhone. “Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily,” the prosecutors said.

Apple chief Tim Cook said in a letter to customers that, despite the order, the company won’t be building a backdoor to the iPhone.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

Cook went on to warn of the implications of the government’s demands.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

The December 2 shooting, perpetrated by Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, resulted in 14 deaths and 22 serious injuries at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. It reignited the debate over tech firms weakening their products’ encryption or providing backdoors so authorities can monitor suspects.

Last year, Apple said it would not perform data extractions in response to government search warrants on devices running iOS 8 and later because it could not access the data without the user’s passcode, which it does not possess. Apple added that it has never worked with any government to create a backdoor in any of its products or services, and it never will.

Apple’s new 4-inch iPhone will likely ditch the ‘5’ and arrive as the iPhone SE

Apple is widely expected to release a smaller 4-inch iPhone as early as next month. It is believed that the handset, often dubbed the iPhone 5se, will essentially be a clone of the iPhone 5s Apple released in 2013 but with modern (faster) internal hardware.

Sources reportedly familiar with the matter are now telling 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman that Apple has decided to drop the “5” from the handset’s name and focus on the special edition moniker, thus calling the device the iPhone SE.

If true, it would be the first iPhone since the original to arrive without a number in its name.

From a marketing standpoint, it actually makes a lot of sense for Apple to ditch the digit with this phone. Launching a “new” iPhone followed by the number five when the latest models carry the “6” suffix implies that it’s a technological step backwards (which is technically somewhat true). Those in tech circles would likely know better but the average consumer that doesn’t lust over hardware like the rest of us would almost certainly be left scratching their heads.

The new iPhone SE is expected to replace the existing 5s in Apple’s lineup and assume the same price point. The handset will probably be powered by Apple’s A9 SoC alongside an M9 chip and feature an 8-megapixel rear camera, NFC for Apple Pay, Live Photo capabilities and the company’s latest Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular hardware.

Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and others unite to support Apple in its court case against the DoJ

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Rivalry between massive technology firms can be pretty extreme at times, with many of them launching lawsuits against each other on a regular basis, so it’s rare for big companies to show support for their competitors. But nothing has united the tech community quite like Apple’s battle with the Department of Justice .

Now, it’s been revealed that several of these companies are planning to do more than just lend their vocal backing; Alphabet, Facebook, and Microsoft, along with several others, are planning to file a joint amicus brief supporting Apple in its court case.

During the continuing saga of Apple’s refusal to help authorities unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, many big industry names, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum, voiced their support for the Cupertino company.

It’s argued that what Apple is being ordered to do – essentially, build a backdoor to its own technology – is a step too far and sets a troubling precedent. Koum even said that “our freedom and our liberty is at stake.”

Other companies said to be included in the joint amicus brief include Amazon, Yahoo,Twitter, and cloud computing business Box. “The second the FBI unlocks this device, any sophisticated bad actor will move to another more secure device,” said Box CEO Aaron Levie. “We land squarely on the side of more security and more encryption.”

Some organizations are considering joining the amicus but haven’t yet committed to it, according to Buzzfeed. These include Slack and the trade group Internet Association. The deadline to file a friend-of-the court brief is March 3, and we’re likely to see several more firms and privacy groups joining the amicus brief before then.

Apple releases “patch” that unbricks iPhones affected by Error 53

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Earlier this month, The Guardian highlighted an issue in which iPhones that have had their Touch ID-equipped home button replaced by third-party (unauthorized) repair centers were essentially bricked after connecting to iTunes and upgrading to iOS 9.

Apple described “Error 53” as a “security check.” iOS checks to see that the Touch ID sensor correctly matches the hardware in the phone as the two were paired at the factory. If iOS sees that the Touch ID sensor doesn’t match the phone’s hardware, the feature is disabled to prevent someone from using a fraudulent Touch ID sensor – something that doesn’t even yet exist according to iFixit co-founder and CEO Kyle Wiens.

Nevertheless, Apple has published an updated version of iOS 9.2.1 that will restore iPhones bricked by Error 53 and prevent future iPhones from running into the same problem following an unauthorized repair. Note that the update is for those that update their phones via iTunes only (those that update over-the-air wouldn’t have run into Error 53 to begin with).

In a statement issued to TechCrunch, Apple said Error 53 was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers. Those that paid for an out-of-warranty replacement based on the issue are urged to contact AppleCare regarding a reimbursement.

It’s also worth pointing out that this patch will not re-enable Touch ID.