The Dialect-Of-Wu Edition Thursday, March 9, 2017

Apple's Siri Learns Shanghainese As Voice Assistants Race To Cover Languages, by Stephen Nellis, Reuters

At Apple, the company starts working on a new language by bringing in humans to read passages in a range of accents and dialects, which are then transcribed by hand so the computer has an exact representation of the spoken text to learn from, said Alex Acero, head of the speech team at Apple. Apple also captures a range of sounds in a variety of voices. From there, a language model is built that tries to predict words sequences.

Then Apple deploys “dictation mode,” its text-to-speech translator, in the new language, Acero said. When customers use dictation mode, Apple captures a small percentage of the audio recordings and makes them anonymous. The recordings, complete with background noise and mumbled words, are transcribed by humans, a process that helps cut the speech recognition error rate in half.

Apple Engineers Working To Address Remaining CIA Exploits, But Two Factors Hampering Efforts, by Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac

The first is lack of any access to the code itself. [...] The second challenge is that the vulnerabilities described to date may be just the tip of the iceberg. It has been claimed that the 8,761 documents so far released by Wikileaks amounts to just 1% of the material in holds – meaning that a great many additional vulnerabilities exist.

WikiLeaks Says The CIA Can “Bypass” Secure Messaging Apps Like Signal. What Does That Mean?, by Yael Grauer, Slate

So, should Signal users do anything different in light of the leaks? If you use Signal on an iPhone, Nexus, or Pixel, Weaver recommends looking at your threat model. If you don’t think you’re at risk of the CIA or another government risking a $1.5 million zero-day exploit to access your phone, you can rest easy. But he recommends other Android users toss their phones in the trash. “Most Android phones don’t meet the security requirements of a teenager,” he says. But that’s not exactly a secret. These phones have long been criticized for slow updates and out-of-date software that makes users vulnerable to a whole host of publicized security flaws.


Skoove Is A New iOS App That Transforms Your iPad Into A Private Piano Instructor, by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac

The app includes more than 250 interactive lessons and courses that you can follow along with at home as if your iPad was a private piano instructor.

The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick Is A Convenient (Though Not Fast) Mobile Flash Drive, by Dennis Sellers, Apple World Today

Despite its flaws, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick USB flash drive offers a simple way to transfer or stream files to and from your phone or computer — at a price.

Develop Responds To Apple’s ‘Hot Code Push’ Policy Shift, Says Its SDK Is Fully Compliant, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

In a statement posted on the website, Rusovsky explained that the central purpose of the service is to allow developers to quickly fix bugs after an app has been released. In response to security concerns, Rusovsky also explains that Rollout is secured from any man-in-the-middle attacks and furthermore allows developers to patch vulnerabilities as they are discovered.


Do You Know Anything About Apple’s Mysterious ‘iPhone Calibration Machine’?, by Jason Koebler, Motherboard

In the back room of every Apple Store in the US is something called an iPhone Calibration Machine. No images of this machine have ever been made public, it is kept under constant video surveillance, and its full functionality is unknown outside of Apple.

I learned about the existence of the calibration machine from two former Apple Geniuses and one current Apple Genius. According to those people, the calibration machine is a microwave-sized device that costs tens of thousands of dollars and has a mechanical arm that can run the iPhone through a battery of tests to make sure it's working properly. More interestingly, the calibration machine can change the settings on the iPhone to allow Apple to replace broken Touch ID buttons, which is impossible outside of Apple.

The Next iPhone Could Put 15,000 Repair Companies Out Of Business, by Jason Koebler, Motherboard

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the next iPhone will have some significant changes. The report notes that the next iPhone will not have a home button and will instead be made of a single piece of glass, a long-rumored and seemingly inconsequential move that is in fact central to an ongoing and hugely important legislative struggle between America's largest company and thousands of independent smartphone repair shops.

Moving the Touch ID fingerprint-reading sensor from the home button into the screen itself will have the side effect of giving Apple a straightforward path to monopolizing screen repair. The move could give Apple unprecedented control over the ownership and repairability of your phone, which means that in the very near future, it's possible that the only company that will be able to do a simple iPhone screen replacement will be Apple itself.