Apple Defends 15-Year Development Plan for Irish Data Center Amidst Environmental Concerns

Over a year after announcing its plan to spend $2 billion on new data centers in Ireland and Denmark, Apple is now defending its decision for the former location amidst rising concern that its state-of-the-art facilities will have negative effects on local animal populations, and could lead to potential flooding concerns on a neighboring golf course (via Business Insider).

Irish planning body An Bord Pleanála managed to temporarily halt construction of the Ireland-based data center thanks to these concerns, which were brought to it by a number of individuals and organizations. Its biggest question was asking why Apple chose the middle of Derrydonnell forest in Galway County, Ireland as its planned site for the server farm, given that there are other places in Ireland designated specifically for data center construction.

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Solar panels at Apple's data center in Maiden, North Carolina

Apple's senior director of global data center services, Robert Sharpe, explained the vital nature of the European data centers as part of Apple's continued expansion and support for its various services like the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Sharpe said that Apple must pursue this phased development (the Derrydonnell Forest center would be constructed over 10-15 years) to continue to accommodate for more smartphones, more services, and more users expecting quality experiences out of both.
"Derrydonnell forest, the site of the proposed development, offers a combination of factors that make it uniquely attractive for a data centre," Sharpe said. "It is a large site, currently used for commercial forestry, which sits extremely close to two major high voltage power transmission lines in an area rich in renewable energy resources."
During the hearing, Sharpe also addressed the environmental concerns raised by locals of the county, claiming that there would be both limited visual pollution to the area thanks to the thickness of the forestry, and that Apple would replenish any wildlife it removed during construction.
"The site presents us with an ideal opportunity to develop a very large, sustainable data centre, which meets our projected needs over the next 10 to 15 years. The woodland will enable us to make the site largely invisible beyond the site and we are able to improve the overall biodiversity of the site by increasing the proportion of native broadleaf trees."
The site in Ireland is planned to consist of eight total buildings each housing thousands of servers for Apple's various online services. The company's original planning application -- which has now been halted by An Bord Pleanála -- is for just one of the eight buildings, so it will have to reapply for each future planned expansion over the next estimated 10-15 years. There was no word yet on the outcome of the hearing in Ireland.

Sharpe address the various concerns presented to Apple -- including flooding issues and water drainage plans -- in his full opening statement.

Apple Shares Soar 9% on News of Warren Buffett Stake in Company

Apple shares have soared 9 percent since American business magnate Warren Buffett revealed his company's $1.2 billion stake in the company on May 16 (via Fortune).

Apple stock looked to be on the wane following Apple's earnings call at the end of April, when the company announced its first ever drop in iPhone sales and its first year-over-year revenue drop in 13 years.

WARREN BUFFETT
Shares of Apple subsequently fell below $90 for the first time in nearly two years amid investors' concerns over the slump. Later it was revealed that Apple investor Carl Icahn had earlier decided to sell his stake in the company due to concern over China's attitude towards Apple, while a second Apple investor, David Tepper, had also dumped shares as its value continued to lessen.

However, just over two weeks ago, a regulatory filing by multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway - which is run by Warren Buffett - revealed that as of March 31, the company owned 9,811,747 shares in Apple stock. Since then, shares of Apple have risen by 9 percent and breached the $100 mark, its highest point in a month.

Buffett has something of a reputation for being able to affect stocks, according to Fortune, which points to a dramatic 11 percent upturn of Kinder Morgan shares in February, shortly after Berkshire Hathaway disclosed its stake in the company.

However, Apple has also enjoyed a reversal of fortune in recently reported production targets for its next-generation iPhone 7, which is expected to launch this September.

Contradicting previous claims of projected weak demand for the upcoming device, Apple has reportedly asked its Asian suppliers to prepare for the highest iPhone production target in "about two years".

Apple investors also appeared unperturbed by news this week that the company's retail expansion in India may fall through, following a ruling from the Indian government that Apple must sell locally sourced goods if it wants to open stores in the country.

Apple remains eager to expand its business in India, where last quarter the company saw its revenue grow 56 percent, surpassing $1 billion. CEO Tim Cook's recent weeklong visit to the country garnered significant media attention and Apple will have regarded it as a positive step towards its global expansion goals.

Pixelmator for Mac Gains New Selection Tools, Retouch Extension for Photos

Popular image editing app Pixelmator was today updated to version 3.5, adding two impressive new tools to improve selections and a new Pixelmator Retouch extension for the Photos app.

Pixelmator's new Quick Selection Tool, which is smarter than the existing tool, makes it much easier to select large areas of an image with a single brushstroke. The tool is designed to analyze color, texture, contrast, shadows, and highlights in an image to automatically detect an object that's being selected.

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"With the Quick Selection Tool, we wanted to create a totally unique experience for selecting objects," said Simonas Bastys, lead developer of the Pixelmator Team. "For more than 6 months, our team worked on developing a unique and incredibly smart algorithm, which used advanced machine-learning techniques to figure out for itself the best possible way to select objects. The results are stunning, and we're really happy to introduce this next-generation selection tool to all of our users."
Alongside the Quick Selection Tool, a new Magnetic Selection Tool is designed to automatically snap to the edges of an object being traced, so a detailed selection can be made much more quickly. According to Pixelmator's developers, the algorithm behind Magnetic Selection is based on A* Pathfinding and ensures a perfect outline around nearly any object.

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For the built-in Photos app on the Mac, there's a Pixelmator Retouch extension that adds a number of retouching tools that can be used directly in Photos. With the extension, it's possible to remove objects, clone areas, adjust lightness and saturation, sharpen details, and more. Pixelmator Retouch was built to take advantage of Metal, Apple's graphics processing technology, so edits can be done speedily.

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Other improvements in the new Pixelmator update include a new Stroke effect that's 15 times faster, improved Refine Selection performance, auto-adjusting brush size for the Distort extension, and content-aware outline smoothing for selections made via Color Selection, Paint Bucket, and Magic Eraser. A long list of bug fixes is also bundled into the release.

Pixelmator for Mac can be downloaded from the Mac App Store for $29.99, and today's update is free for existing users. [Direct Link]

Apple Releases Safari Technology Preview 5 With Bug Fixes and Feature Tweaks

safaripreviewiconApple today released a new update for Safari Technology Preview, the experimental browser Apple first introduced on March 30. Apple uses Safari Technology Preview to test features that may eventually be introduced in the release version of Safari.

Safari Technology Preview release 5 includes a bug fixes and updates for JavaScript, CSS, web APIs, Web Inspector, media, security, networking, and accessibility.

The Safari Technology Preview update is available through the Mac App Store to anyone who has downloaded the browser. Full release notes are available on Apple's Safari Technology Preview website.

Apple's goal with Safari Technology Preview is to gather feedback from developers and users on its browser development process. Safari Technology Preview can be run side-by-side with the existing Safari browser and while aimed at developers, it does not require a developer account to download.

Kanex Launches GoPower USB-C Battery Pack for MacBook

Kanex has introduced a new GoPower rechargeable 15,000 mAh USB-C battery pack capable of delivering one full charge to the 12-inch Retina MacBook.

The slim aluminum battery pack also has a traditional USB port that can provide multiple charges to iPhones, iPads, and other USB devices.

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USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables are included for charging the GoPower itself. A four-LED status indicator lets users know the power level of the battery pack based on 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent, and 100 percent intervals.

Kanex has also included a built-in circuit protection board with priority charging detection technology that enables pass-through charging to plugged in devices when the battery pack itself is plugged into a power source.

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The battery pack's USB-C output is 5V at 3 Amps, while its USB output is 5V at 2.4 Amps.

GoPower retails for $99.95 on Amazon and Kanex's website.

Related Roundup: Retina MacBook
Tags: battery pack, USB-C, Kanex
Buyer's Guide: MacBook (Buy Now)

Apple Releases First OS X 10.11.6 El Capitan Beta to Public Beta Testers

Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming OS X 10.11.6 beta to public beta testers, just a day after releasing the first OS X 10.11.6 beta to developers and one week after releasing OS X 10.11.5, the fifth update to the OS X 10.11 operating system.

The new beta is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store for those who are enrolled in Apple's beta testing program. Those wishing to join the program can sign up on Apple's beta testing website.

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Like many of the previous updates to the OS X 10.11 El Capitan operating system, OS X 10.11.6 appears to be minor in scale, focusing on under-the-hood bug fixes, security enhancements, and performance improvements. No obvious outward-facing changes or bug fixes were discovered in the first developer beta.

Related Roundup: OS X El Capitan
Tag: OS X 10.11.6

Apple Releases Firmware Update 7.6.7 and 7.7.7 for AirPort Base Stations

airport_utility_iconApple today released a new firmware update for all of its 802.11n Wi-Fi base stations, including the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule. According to Apple's release notes, the update includes bug fixes and is designed to improve the stability and performance of the products.
This update:
- Fixes an issue which may prevent communication between clients on the same network
- Improves performance with an extended guest network
- Addresses potential naming conflicts with Bonjour Sleep Proxy
Apple has also released a 7.7.7 update for its 802.11ac Wi-Fi Base stations, including the latest AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule models. It fixes the same issues.

The firmware updates can be installed through the AirPort Utility app for iOS or OS X.

Related Roundup: AirPort

Review: Promise Technology's 'Apollo' Offers Private Cloud Storage for the Whole Family

Cloud-based services like iCloud and Dropbox are useful because they make documents, photos, and other media easily shareable and accessible anywhere, but there is a downside -- that content is stored offsite on an unknown server not under an individual user's control.

With Apollo, a new personal cloud device launching today, Promise Technology aims to combine the cloud's ease of use with the security of local storage. The Apollo, Promise Technology's first consumer-facing product, is also the first network-attached storage option for families and small businesses, designed specifically to allow for multiple individuals to share dedicated storage space.


The Apollo, priced at $299, is being sold exclusively through Apple.com and in Apple retail stores starting on June 7.

Design and Specs


Apollo is a 4TB network-attached storage device, which plugs into a router to connect to a home (or small business) Wi-Fi network. The Apollo is compact and sleek looking, with an aesthetic that easily matches Apple's own line of devices. Made from a clean white plastic, the Apollo measures in at 5.6 inches by 7.5 inches and it is 2.4 inches thick with a rectangular shape.


As seen in the photo below, it's not much taller than an iPhone 6s Plus, and it's similar in size to many home cable modems and routers. It includes a Gigabit Ethernet port, a USB 3.0 port (for plugging into a computer and for attaching an additional hard drive for backing up the Apollo), 1GB RAM, a 1GHz Marvell ARMADA 380 CPU, and the aforementioned 4TB SATA hard drive. In my testing, the Apollo was quiet during operation.

➜ Click here to read more...

iPhones Too Expensive in India, Says Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted that iPhones are too expensive in India, during an interview with Indian news channel NDTV on Monday, the last day of his weeklong visit to the country (via TechCrunch).

According to a recent report from Deutsche Bank, India is among the most expensive places in the world to buy an iPhone. Prices there average 31 percent higher than the U.S., with only iPhones in Sweden, Indonesia, and Brazil proving more costly.

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NDTV's Vikram Chandra broached the subject with Cook on air. "You've got an iPhone here which is more expensive than it is in the U.S., with less functionality than it would have in the U.S., and in a country where purchasing power is a fraction of what it is in the U.S.," Chandra said.

Cook acknowledged the disproportionate cost by suggesting that the iPhone was overpriced rather than too expensive. "The duties and the taxes and the compounding of those takes the price and it makes it very high. Our profitability is less in India, it's materially less — but still I recognize that prices are high," he said.

"We want to do things that lower that over time, to the degree that we can," Cook continued. "I want the consumer in India to be able to buy at a price that looks like the U.S. price."


Chandra's interview covered a few more topics, including how Apple saw itself investing in its Indian presence. "What we see here is talent," said Cook. "That means getting the development community moving on iOS. We're also using a lot of skills in India for maps – the maps facility will be several hundred million dollars worth of work."

Cook also said the company wants to bring all its existing services to India, including Apple Pay, and that if the need arose to offer something unique in the country, Apple would look at that too, although he acknowledged the possible cultural limitations: "I don't believe personally in trying to be something you're not. We are what we are. We're a California company."

The interview rounded off Tim Cook's weeklong trip to India, during which he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, mingled with Bollywood stars, watched a cricket game, visited temples, and attended business meetings in Mumbai.

Tag: India

Airmail 3.0 for Mac Brings VIP Contacts, Smart Folders, and More

Airmail, the third party email client for Mac, has been updated to version 3, bringing some major new features to the popular application and a redesigned interface.

The new update adds Smart Folders for enhanced message filtering and organization, VIP contacts, OS X notifications, and support for the "send later" feature available to Gmail and Exchange account holders.

Airmail 3
The Mac update also means that Airmail for OS X now syncs account preferences across iPhone and iPad devices, syncing rules, VIP contacts, and Smart Folders over iCloud.

Airmail 3 supports multiple accounts including MS Exchange, Gmail, Google Apps, IMAP, POP3, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook.com, and Live.com.

Other new changes bring options for customizable menus, gestures, keyboard shortcuts, and folders, as well as calendar integration, rules for forwarding messages, Asana and Trello integration, primary inbox support for Gmail, and redesigned message threads.

Airmail 3.0 is available for El Capitan on the Mac App Store, priced at $9.99. [Direct Link]

Tag: Airmail

Tim Cook Meets With India's PM Narendra Modi, Launches New App

Apple CEO Tim Cook continued his week-long visit to India today by meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss manufacturing and retail opportunities, as well as launch a new state mobile app (via The Times of India).

During the meeting at the Prime Minister's official residence, Modi explained his Digital India initiative and asked Apple to support its key objectives of e-education, health, and increasing farmer's incomes. The PM also reportedly raised issues with Cook regarding cyber security and data encryption in India.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: PIB)

Cook took the opportunity to express his appreciation for the country's skilled younger generation and emphasized Apple's desire to tap into the talent of India's youth. Cook also commented on the potential for app development that exists in the country and highlighted the importance of the Map Development Centre that Apple is setting up in Hyderabad.

In addition, Cook helped launch an updated version of the Prime Minister's 'Narendra Modi Mobile App', which aims to offer a direct channel of communication with Indian citizens as part of a broader vision for participative governance.

The app contains a new feature called 'My Network', which is described as an online volunteering forum where app users can share views and ideas. Additionally, the app functions as a ministerial news service and logs the Prime Minister’s speeches, while users can also keep up with episodes of PM radio program 'Mann Ki Baat' and even write to the Prime Minister.

Modi took to Twitter to thank Cook for helping launch the updated app and urged followers on social media to get involved. Cook responded by thanking the PM and offered his best wishes for the app's success.



As part of the day, Cook also met Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel, one of India's leading telecommunication companies which was the first to launch 4G in India and is set to offer the service countrywide.

The PM meeting is being reported as a high point for Cook's Indian visit and a strengthening of Apple's relationship with the country. In an interview with an Indian TV channel on Friday, Cook asserted that he was looking at India holistically and Apple was "here for the next thousand years".

Tag: India

Uber Enters Race to Perfect Driverless Vehicle Technology

Uber has announced it is currently testing self-driving car technology with a view to completely remove the need for drivers from its ride-hailing service.

According to a statement by the company posted online yesterday, the initial testing phase is being conducted on the streets of Pittsburgh, using a hybrid Ford Fusion fitted with various sensors including radar, laser scanners and cameras.

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The test vehicle from Uber's Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) collects mapping data as it travels, while a trained driver monitors operations in the car at all times.

The driverless project is being carried out in partnership with Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. Uber says it is pursuing the goal of inducting autonomous vehicles into its fleet by 2020.
Real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology. Self-driving cars have the potential to save millions of lives and improve quality of life for people around the world.  1.3 million people die every year in car accidents — 94% of those accidents involve human error. In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents. These goals are at the heart of Uber’s mission to make transportation as reliable as running water — everywhere and for everyone.
Uber joins an accelerating industry race for the mainstream introduction of self-driving cars, with Tesla already developing the technology and multiple Chinese firms also making headway.

There have been indications suggesting Apple is exploring autonomous vehicles for its own car project, codenamed "Titan", but sources say the first car it releases will not be driverless, with that functionality perhaps coming at a later date.

Tag: Uber