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The LibreRouter project aims to make mesh networks simple and affordable – TechCrunch



In the city, we’re constantly saturated with the radio waves from ten or twenty different routers, cell towers, and other wireless infrastructure. But in rural communities there might only be one internet connection for a whole village. LibreRouter is a hardware and software project that looks to let those communities build their own modern, robust mesh networks to make the most of their limited connectivity.

The intended use case is in situations where, say, a satellite or wired connection terminates at one point, the center of an area, but the people who need to use it live nearby — but well outside the hundred feet or so you can expect a wi-fi signal to travel. Often in such a case it’s also prohibitively expensive to run more wires or install cellular infrastructure.

So instead of having people come to the signal, you bring the signal to them with a mesh network: a collection of interconnected wireless routers that pass signals to and from anyone who can reach one of them.

This approach has its own problems: routers can be expensive and difficult to maintain or repair, and the network itself isn’t trivial to set up and troubleshoot either. Off the shelf routers and software aren’t the best options — so a team of concerned hackers have put together their own: LibreRouter, and LibreMesh, the software that runs on it.

It’s not some groundbreaking device or fancy software — just purpose built for use by communities like the ones they’ve tested with in rural Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and Canada.

The goal, as LibreRouter’s Nicolás Pace explained to APNIC, is to make mesh networks affordable, robust, scalable, and simple to operate; they’re not all the way there, but they do have a working prototype and full software stack based on OpenWRT, a well-known and trusted wireless utility.

They’ve designed the router itself to be modern and powerful, but easy to repair with normal tools and off-the-shelf parts; the software won’t quite be one-click simple, but it should automate many of the harder parts of configuring a mesh. The range on them is in the kilometers rather than meters, so these can really connect quite a large area.

It’s all open source, of course, and the team is always looking for contributors. There’s enough interest, Pace said, that they might ship as many as 2,500 of the devices over the next couple years once the design is finalized.

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Report: This year’s iPhones may have in-screen Touch ID



Enlarge / The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. The next iPhones aren’t expected to change looks very much.

Samuel Axon

This weekend, business publication Bloomberg ran a plethora of articles sharing details about various upcoming Apple products. We previously covered what Bloomberg’s sources said about the Mac lineup, but another report details upcoming iPhones.

According to “a person familiar with” Apple’s work, the 2021 iPhone will be a small, iterative update and may carry the “S” label, which Apple has used to denote smaller upgrades to the iPhone in the past (for example, iPhone 6S or iPhone XS). This is in part because the iPhone 12 lineup introduced last fall was particularly loaded with new features and design changes, but it was also because COVID-19 restrictions have slowed Apple’s engineers down, according to the report.

While the iPhone 13 wouldn’t have a radically new design, the report does describe one potential change of note that Apple is testing internally: the addition of an in-screen fingerprint reader.

In 2017, Apple introduced Face ID, a facial recognition authentication alternative to the fingerprint reader tech (Touch ID) that it had used in prior iPhones. The first generation of Face ID was a little slower and less consistent than Touch ID, but subsequent updates brought it up to par, and most users came to accept or appreciate the new method.

However, some people still prefer unlocking their phones with a fingerprint, and the need to wear masks during the pandemic has made logging in via face recognition far less attractive, even though Apple released a small update for iPhones to make the process of circumventing Face ID when wearing a mask a little snappier. Some competing Android phones already offer in-screen fingerprint readers.

This change would herald the return of Touch ID to flagship iPhones. In the current lineup, it’s only present in the low-cost iPhone SE model. Touch ID itself was introduced in an “S” update: the iPhone 5S was the first to include the technology. And like Face ID, it took iteration to improve Touch ID’s efficiency after it was first introduced.

Staying true to TrueDepth

Apple has no plans to axe the TrueDepth sensor array that facilitates Face ID, however, even if it does introduce in-screen Touch ID. This is because the array also assists with key photography and augmented reality features.

Bloomberg’s sources also say that Apple is “discussing” the removal of the iPhone’s physical charging port, since last year’s iPhones introduced MagSafe wireless chargers. But just because the company is discussing that as a possibility doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing.

Also to that effect, the report claims that Apple is actively testing folding iPhone designs, though these are not sure to come to market, and if they do, it will likely be a few years in the future. Don’t be surprised that Apple is at least testing foldables; the Android smartphone market has seen a few foldable phones, though we have generally found them to be compromised or poor user experiences. As with the removal of the charging port, the fact that Apple is testing this feature does not mean it will actually happen.

Finally, the report claims that Apple will finally release AirTags, its augmented reality Tile competitor. Bloomberg says that product was the only one Apple intended to ship by the end of 2020 that didn’t make it out the door.

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Samsung’s top executive gets 30 months in prison for bribery



Enlarge / Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung, seen here leaving a court hearing in January 2017.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

It’s back to jail for Samsung’s leader, Lee Jae-yong (aka Jay Y. Lee). Lee has been embroiled in a legal battle for his role in “Choigate,” a major 2016 South Korean political scandal that led to South Korean President Park Geun-hye being impeached and removed from office. The scandal is named for the president’s top aid, Choi Soon-sil, a member of a shamanistic cult that was found to be masterminding South Korean government policy via her influence over the president. It’s a long story, but Choi was sentenced to 20 years in prison for influence peddling, and Park was sentenced to 25 years.

Samsung’s part in this mess involves accusations that Lee bribed Choi for favorable rulings related to the merger of two Samsung affiliates. In 2017, Lee was sentenced to five years in jail after being found guilty of bribery, embezzlement, capital flight, and perjury charges. Six months after his sentencing, an appeals court cut Lee’s sentence in half and suspended the charges for bribery and embezzlement. Lee was released from prison while the appeals process continued. The case wound its way all the way up to the South Korean Supreme Court, which, in 2019, ordered a retrial.

Today’s ruling sentences Lee to 30 months in prison, and after having already served one year, Samsung’s leader should be spending the next year and a half behind bars.

“Samsung is above the law”

Lee’s initial conviction and the constant whittling down of punishment has been par for the course for Samsung executives accused of crimes in South Korea. Samsung is so large that it makes up anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of South Korea’s GDP, depending on the year, so there is a fear of what damaging the company would do to South Korea’s economy. Lee’s recently deceased father and the chairman of Samsung Group, Lee Kun-hee, was convicted of bribery in 1996 and of tax evasion in 2009 but was never arrested nor served jail time. Later, presidential pardons wiped out his criminal record. As one National Assembly member put it when Lee’s sentence was reduced in 2018, “We confirmed once again that Samsung is above the law and the court.”

Bloomberg’s report on the sentencing gives us an idea of how the “Pro-Samsung” faction of South Korea feels about the court ruling. The report quotes Shin Se-don, an emeritus professor of economics at Sookmyung Women’s University: “Lee might be able to manage the company from the jail, but there will be some setback. The jailing of Lee will give an emotional shock to the people. Samsung is a backbone of our economy and people will be upset about the result.”

Samsung Group is currently undergoing a major transition after the death of Lee’s father, Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, in October. Lee Jae-yong has been the de facto leader of Samsung for years now, following Lee Kun-hee’s hospitalization in 2014 after a heart attack. Now Lee Jae-yong will have to properly ascend from “vice-chairman” to official Samsung chairman and deal with the financial challenge of paying South Korea’s 50 percent estate tax on the Samsung empire. Bloomberg reports that the transition is “likely” to be delayed until Lee gets out of prison.

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Apple pulls the plug on user-found method to sideload iOS apps on Mac



Enlarge / The Mac App Store—the only place you can easily get iOS and iPadOS apps for Mac.

Apple has plugged a hole that allowed users to sideload iOS and iPad applications to M1 Macs that were never intended to run on desktop, 9to5Mac reports. The server-side change ensures that only applications that app developers have flagged as optimized for Mac will run.

Late last year, Apple launched its first Macs running on its own ARM-based custom CPU called the M1, as opposed to the Intel chips that have been used in Macs for several years. These new machines included the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air, and the low-end Mac mini.

Since those machines now share an architecture with iPhones and iPads, which also have closely related ARM-based chips, it became possible to run iOS and iPadOS apps natively on Macs that were equipped with the M1 chip. Apple supported this by listing iPhone and iPad apps that passed an automated test on the Mac App Store, provided developers did not opt out of having the app listed.

However, many developers did opt out for any number of reasons: because they did not feel the app provided a good user experience on laptops or desktops; because they offer preferred alternative ways to access services or content on Macs; because they don’t have the time to support an additional platform; or any number of other reasons.

In those cases, the apps did not appear on the Mac App Store. But a couple of months ago, a Reddit user shared a way of sideloading those apps on M1 Macs by fetching the app’s IPA file from a connected iOS or iPadOS device using third-party software, like iMazing, for Macs.

According to 9to5Mac, though, Apple has now “flipped the necessary server-side switch” to block this method. The change already affects Macs running macOS Big Sur 11.1, and it also applies to Macs running the 11.2 beta. In fact, it even offers an error message on the latter: “This application cannot be installed because the developer did not intend for it to run on this platform.”

There are a number of reasons Apple may have introduced this change. For one, an alternate version of the IPA file method described above could also be used to sideload pirated versions of apps rather than files from versions legitimately and legally installed on iOS or iPadOS devices. Further, Apple and developers may feel that these applications provide a poor user experience on macOS, and they could be a support or security headache.

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