TidBITS#1277/22-Jun-2015

Apple has started a replacement program for 3 TB hard drives in some 27-inch iMacs, and the company has also made the Apple Watch available for pickup in Apple retail stores. That’s perfect timing, since we’ve just released Jeff Carlson’s comprehensive “Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course.” Developer Vemedio has pulled the plug on its popular Instacast podcast client, but Josh Centers suggests some alternatives. Adam Engst warns that iCloud Photo Library could cause cellular data overages, and that repairing your Photos library could trigger another large upload. Michael Cohen examines the Revisions app for Dropbox, which offers a better interface for Dropbox file recovery. Finally, Josh takes you on a tour of the Pandoland conference, which brought Silicon Valley to Nashville. Notable software releases this week include Lightroom CC 2015.1 and Lightroom 6.1, Default Folder X 4.7.2, ChronoSync 4.6.2 and ChronoAgent 1.5.3, Audio Hijack 3.1.1, and Mellel 3.4.
 
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Apple Replacing 3 TB Hard Drives in Some 27-inch iMacs

  by Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters

Apple has established a replacement program for some 3 TB hard drives in 27-inch iMacs sold between December 2012 and September 2013. These drives may fail under certain conditions. The program covers affected iMacs until 19 December 2015 or until the third anniversary of the original sales date, whichever period is longer.

You can enter your iMac’s serial number at Apple’s support site to see if it qualifies. If it does, you can get a free replacement at an Apple retail store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider. Apple also says it will reimburse anyone who has already paid for repair or replacement.

Before you have your iMac repaired, be sure to back up your data, preferably twice! If you don’t know where to start, check out Joe Kissell’s new “Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide.” This isn’t just a precaution; once you get your iMac back, you’ll need to restore your data from backup.

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It’s Time to Read “Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course”

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst

Are you considering an Apple Watch? Or perhaps you’re an early adopter with one already on your wrist? Regardless, learning about the Apple Watch has been pretty hit-or-miss with Web content, especially when it comes to distinguishing pre-release speculation from articles based on actual usage. So we’re particularly pleased to bring you Jeff Carlson’s “Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course,” which may be the first documentation of the Apple Watch that’s comprehensive, independent, and based on real-world experience. The 69-page book is only $10.

Using our graphically rich, informationally dense Crash Course format, Jeff covers the Apple Watch from metaphorical morning to night, first helping you understand what it can do for you and choose a particular model. Next, after a couple of chapters explaining how you interact with the watch and personalize the watch face, Jeff walks you through using glances, apps, and notifications. Then he turns his attention to specific things that the watch can help with, including communicating with friends, getting directions, working with events and reminders, viewing and capturing photos, controlling iTunes and Apple TVs, using Apple Pay and Passbook, and exercising. Two final chapters ensure that you know what settings and customizations are available and how to take care of your watch, including recharging, restarting, resetting, and restoring.

Like our other Crash Courses, “Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course” has concise chunks of content so you can read quickly, all wrapped up in a modern, magazine-like layout in PDF that morphs to a reflowable design for EPUB and Mobipocket. Each chapter ends with discussion and sharing buttons, making it easy to ask a question or share a chapter with Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and others (please do!).

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Apple Watch Models Now In Stock at Some Retail Stores

  by Jeff Carlson: jeff@necoffee.com, @jeffcarlson
  3 comments

Edging the Apple Watch closer to impulse-buy status, Apple Watch models are now in stock at many Apple retail stores. Previously, the only way to order a watch was to do so online, and have it delivered by mail. You still need to initiate an order online, but now you can reserve a watch model and, if it’s in stock, pick it up the same day. Many watch bands are also available in stores for off-the-shelf purchase.

At the online Apple Store or using the Apple Store app on an iOS device, you can choose the model you want and check reservation availability for retail Apple Stores in your area. (Only stores that have your desired model in stock appear in the pop-ups for choosing state and store location.)


If it’s available, you need to send a text message containing a custom code, which returns a registration code that is active for 30 minutes. From there you choose a pickup time and then head to the store. Although the process sounds involved, it’s designed to cut down on the number of people buying merchandise in-store who then turn around and sell it to gray market dealers. Reservations begin at 8:00 AM local time, and the watch must be picked up the same day. There’s also a limit of one watch per customer.

As you might expect, not all models are available in all locations, but now I know which Apple Store I could pop into on my lunch break to pick up a 42mm Apple Watch Edition. (And while you’re waiting for your pick-up time, you can read my book “Apple Watch: A Take Control Crash Course,” just updated to version 1.1 with everything essential about the watch!)

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Farewell Instacast

  by Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters
  1 comment

Instacast, the popular podcast client for iOS and Mac, is no more. Having run out of funds, developer Vemedio is closing up shop, according to a statement sent to paid subscribers. Vemedio says that it will keep its servers running for as long as possible to maintain existing functionality. We covered the iOS version in “Five Alternatives to Apple’s Podcasts App,” 22 December 2012 and the subsequent Mac version in “Instacast for Mac Fills the Desktop Podcatcher Gap,” 31 May 2013.

Thankfully, Instacast isn’t the only kid on the block. Here are some alternatives to consider:

I also recommend reading Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s recent roundup, “Mac Podcast Client Showdown: Native Clients vs. Web Apps” (5 January 2015), which compares a number of these apps.

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More Problems with iCloud Photo Library Uploads

  by Adam C. Engst: ace@tidbits.com, @adamengst
  4 comments

The largely opaque combination of Photos and iCloud Photo Library is out of control. I can’t guarantee these issues will apply to everyone, but consider yourself warned.

I recently wrote about how enabling iCloud Photo Library causes Photos to monopolize your Internet connection as it uploads your photos to iCloud, and I offered a way to mitigate the annoyance (see “How to Throttle iCloud Photo Library Uploads,” 20 May 2015). It took over a week for my 27,000+ photos to upload, and that’s using an Internet connection with 5 Mbps of upstream bandwidth, throttled to 3.5 Mbps.

Luckily, unlike many people, I don’t have a data cap for my Time Warner Internet connection, so at least that wasn’t a problem for me, as it might be for you. Where I did run into trouble is with my iPhone, on which I’m using the Optimize iPhone Storage option to reduce the amount of data transferred and stored. Tonya, Tristan, and I now share 2 GB of data on our family plan, and before last month, we had never come close to using that much, since we’re still accustomed to having only 250 MB each. So you can imagine my surprise shortly after I enabled iCloud Photo Library when AT&T texted me to say that I was approaching my 2 GB limit. I looked through the cellular data usage screen in Settings > Cellular, and pored over the app-specific information in Dataman Pro, but all I was able to determine was that lots of data had been used in the Documents & Sync category of System Services.

There are no settings to prevent iCloud Photo Library from working over cellular, and while I disabled cellular data for the Photos app, that made no difference. I could turn off cellular data in general (and I did once or twice, but that’s a hard thing to remember every time you leave the house), but by the end of the billing period, AT&T had hit me with $30 of overage charges for two $15 blocks of 1 GB of additional data.

This is shockingly poor design on Apple’s part, and I hope to see it fixed in iOS 9. The entire point of iCloud Photo Library is to transfer huge quantities of image data, and it’s disrespectful for Apple not to provide a switch to prevent iCloud Photo Library from chewing through cellular data.

Nevertheless, I wrote the $30 off as a one-time expense, figuring it would never happen again. But there is some concern that iCloud Photo Library could be a recurring expense, not to mention the time babysitting iCloud Photo Library uploads. Here’s why.

A question was recently posed on the discussion page for the iCloud chapter of Jason Snell’s massively popular “Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course,” asking if repairing the Photos library (by holding down Command-Option at launch) would force everything to be uploaded to iCloud Photo Library again.

I couldn’t imagine that this would be the case, and said so initially in my reply while I was waiting for my test repair to finish. And when I looked at the iCloud pane of Photos’ preferences window at first, there was no notable activity. A few minutes later, though, I looked back, and it said that it was uploading 27,552 items. Not good. However, some apps, like CrashPlan, report that they’re doing more than they are, because they’re actually analyzing the data, not uploading, and they eventually realize that no new data needs to be uploaded; I hoped briefly that this was the case here too.

Unfortunately, when I looked at the Network view in Activity Monitor, the nsurlsessiond process had clearly started sending a large quantity of data. And some spelunking in Console revealed this log entry:

6/19/15 11:06:56.470 AM cloudphotosd[29598]: Reset Sync Requested! Reason: Database was rebuilt


Although I was initially concerned that Photos would upload my entire library again, and that iCloud Photo Library would download it all to my iPhone again, potentially incurring additional overage charges, it appears now that the situation isn’t that worrisome.

Over the course of several days, Photos counted down from the initial 27,552 items to upload. It did impact my Internet performance until I enabled Network Link Conditioner to throttle it, but even so, the upload process worked much faster than the initial seeding to iCloud Photo Library. In the end, the nsurlsessiond process sent 7.67 GB of data, and a another process called cloudd also uploaded several gigabytes that might have been related, but that’s nothing compared to the 111 GB size of my full Photos library. Even better, as far as I can tell, my iPhone hasn’t had to download any notable amount of data again. Hopefully, others will share my experience.

However, Spotlight (in the form of the mds process) has been going nuts on my Mac for many hours after the upload. There’s no way to know exactly what it’s doing, but a commenter on this article also noted that Photos uploaded a lot of data to iCloud Photo Library after he restored his Mac from a Time Machine backup. Spotlight indexing data isn’t backed up by Time Machine, so that points to iCloud Photo Library relying on Spotlight in some core fashion.

Regardless of what’s happening behind the scenes, the takeaway message is that certain actions, like repairing a Photos library or restoring from backup, can trigger a significant, if not complete, iCloud Photo Library upload. Those actions often aren’t optional, but beware that they have additional consequences when iCloud Photo Library is enabled.

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Revisions Wrangles Your Dropbox Files

  by Michael E. Cohen: mcohen@tidbits.com, @lymond
  4 comments

Raise your hand if you use the cloud-based file-sharing service, Dropbox. Keep your hand up if you know that Dropbox saves versions of all the files you store in it so you can recover both deleted files and older versions of modified files. Now keep it raised if you have ever recovered a file using Dropbox’s Web service. If, when I asked any of these questions, you had your hand up, you might be interested in Revisions from Bayesbits Ltd.

Revisions is a Mac utility that watches your Dropbox folder and keeps track of what is going on in it. Click its menu bar icon and you can see a timeline showing all the activity that has taken place in Dropbox, starting with the most recent. Use the menus in the Select a Folder section at the top of the window to view changes within a particular Dropbox folder and its subfolders. You can set the span of time that the timeline covers with the controls in the Filter by Date section, just below Select a Folder.


The timeline itself is presented in the third section from the top: View Activity. Each individual item in the timeline represents a single change, called an “edit,” to a file in your Dropbox. By default, Revisions collects edits into temporal chunks, called “groups,” for convenience. You use the Group Threshold slider above the timeline to set the time covered by a group, ranging from no groups at all to groups that collect edits over 5-day spans; the mid-point on the slider creates groups that cover 10-minute spans of activity.

The edits listed in a group fall into four categories: created, modified, deleted, and temporary. For all but temporary edits you can click icons following the file name to view the file as it existed at that time, download it, undo the change represented by the edit, and, for modified files, compare it with the next version of it saved in Dropbox. In case you can’t remember what an icon does, hover your pointer over one to see a help tag that describes its function. By the way, the light gray appearance of the icons may lead you to think they are disabled in compliance with the long-standing Mac convention, but that is not the case — they are gray simply to be less distracting: if the function that an icon represents is disabled, the icon simply doesn’t appear in the Revisions timeline.


In addition to individual edit actions, each group has an undo icon in its top-right corner: click that to undo all the changes contained in the group at once. Don’t be afraid that you might accidentally click it and mess things up: all changes, whether to an individual edit or an entire group, produce dialogs telling you what is about to happen and asking you to confirm the changes.


What about temporary edits? They represent modifications to files that have taken place within the time that the group represents and are purely informational: no icons follow the file name in the timeline for temporary edits. If, however, you need to act upon one of these intermediate edits, select the group and click Ungroup to see each edit individually in the timeline, at which point you can act on one of them.

When you move your pointer between two adjacent groups, the timeline opens up to show two more icons. One allows you to download the currently displayed Dropbox folder and its subfolder to your Mac in the state that it was in before the edits began in the most recent group of changes (that is, the group above the icons); the other restores the currently selected folder to its state just prior to the edits shown in the group above.


The free version of Revisions can do everything I’ve just described. If, however, you purchase the $9.99 in-app upgrade to the Premium version, you get some additional functionality. Premium provides the capability to filter files shown in the timeline by name; for example, you can choose to show edits involving .html files only, or just edits involving files that contain “TextExpander” as part of their names. If you use shared folders (and, boy, do we use the heck out of shared folders at Take Control Books!), Premium shows you who among the users who share a folder has performed a particular edit.

Of course, you can undo file changes and recover previous versions simply by going to the Dropbox site and performing your file recovery actions there. However, Revisions provides a far more navigable interface for such activities, with more information about individual edits. There is no magic involved: Revisions works from the very information that Dropbox maintains so that it can provide its capabilities; the app just displays the information provided by Dropbox in a more flexible and useful fashion.

If you regularly use Dropbox and want an easy way to revert file changes or even just to see what you’ve been doing in Dropbox, the free version of Revisions may be just what you want. And if you use shared Dropbox folders and need to know who has been doing what in them, the in-app upgrade to the Premium version is just a click away.

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A Visit to Pandoland, Where Silicon Valley Meets Music City

  by Josh Centers: josh@tidbits.com, @jcenters

I’ve lived in the Middle Tennessee area practically my entire life, and over the years I’ve seen it evolve from an oft-ignored flyover city known only for country music to a happening metropolis. There’s perhaps no better symbol of Nashville’s renaissance than Pandoland, a technology conference put together by the folks from Pando Daily, founded by Tennessee-born former TechCrunch columnist Sarah Lacy.

After my wife read about the conference’s troubles with the state (Pando Daily worked with the state last year to put on the Southland conference, a partnership that did not end well), she wanted to go to show her support. The fact that the $699 tickets were offered to her for free was also an incentive (see “Pandoland Conference Offers Free Admission for Women,” 12 June 2015). While the conference took place across two full days, we were able to make it on only the first day.

The venue for Pandoland was the Marathon Music Works, opened in 2011 in the remains of the long-abandoned Marathon Motor Car factory. It’s symbolic of the new Nashville, in which so-called hipsters have reclaimed neglected territory to found new businesses.

Pandoland was unlike any other conference I’ve ever been to. While most conferences are housed in sterile office-like environments, with closed-off rooms for various events, Pandoland has one, wide-open space, dominated by a single stage with PANDOLAND in bright lights. With three fully stocked bars serving a plethora of spirits, it felt less like a conference and more like a rock concert.


After an ample breakfast buffet (in true Southern style, you could not go hungry at Pandoland), we settled in for the morning’s events.

The keynote was given by Andy Sparks, co-founder and COO of Mattermark, a startup that researches other startups. To be honest, most of it went over my head, and I found it a bit depressing, since his rankings of the top startup cities didn’t even mention Nashville. You can read a summary of his keynote at Pando Daily.

One thing in the keynote that did pique my interest was a list of the startups Apple has acquired in the past year: OttoCat, an App Store organizer; Dryft, which makes keyboard apps; LinX Imaging, a miniature camera company, Coherent Navigation, a GPS firm; and Metaio, which specializes in augmented reality software.

After the keynote, Sarah Lacy took the stage to interview her guests. It was sort of a tech version of Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show;” Lacy confidently sipped whiskey (9 AM is a bit early for me, but I’m not judging) as a brass band welcomed the guests. They even encouraged swearing on stage, with a digital “swear jar” that charged $10 per swear, with all proceeds going to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

The first interview was with Michael Sippey, formerly of Twitter, and Marc Ruxin of Rdio, and Apple Music was a key topic of discussion. The main gist of the conversation was: how do you get people to pay for music?

“I think it’s a content thing,” Sippey said, mentioning that he subscribes to Netflix for “Orange Is the New Black” and to HBO for “Game of Thrones.” He suggested that services need to better differentiate themselves with exclusive content.

Ruxin countered that Spotify had secured an exclusive streaming license to the Led Zeppelin catalog in 2013 but over a 12-month period, a single Ed Sheeran song had been played more than the entire combined Led Zeppelin catalog. Ouch.

“The bigger problem is 35 million songs and nothing to listen to,” Ruxin said, suggesting that curation may be the key to music subscription services. If that’s true, then Apple and Beats’s combination of human-curated playlists and live radio might just be Apple Music’s stairway to heaven. (Sorry.)

There were several other interviews. Most interesting to me was James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee (which purchased one of our former sponsors, Tonx) and musician Annie Bosko, who discussed sexism in country music.

At one point, I went to get a coffee from a pop-up cafe sponsored by Braintree, a payment service that allows merchants to accept a variety of payments, such as PayPal, Bitcoin, and Apple Pay. Oddly enough, although it was promoting a payment service, the coffee was free. And the cafe’s signs offered drinks like “A Swipe of Coffee — A classic blend of credit & debit” and “Cryptocino — Espresso under a layer of creamy Bitcoin foam.” It was a scene straight out of Mike Judge’s satirical “Silicon Valley” show on HBO. But the coffee was pretty good.


Startup Competition -- A major event at Pandoland is its startup competition, in which ten competing startups compete for investments from the judges — much like the TV show “Shark Tank.”

Here’s what we saw in the first round:

Of those we saw, I agreed with Kelley Boothe of Southern Alpha that Haven was the best of the five round one contestants. However, the eventual winner was Umano, a second round company that makes clothing with designs created by underprivileged kids. The company scored a $100,000 investment from the judges.

Unfortunately, we had to leave after the startup competition, so we missed the discussion sessions that featured topics such as “Have Silicon Valley VCs lost their minds,” “What happens once weed is legal,” and “Dealing with it: Hacks for competing as a woman in a male-dominated business.” But not before we enjoyed a helping of Hattie B’s chicken.

Beyond the Valley -- Overall, Pandoland was a fascinating look behind the scenes of the technology business, one that most Tennesseans would not be privy to. I’m thankful to the folks at Pando Daily for bringing it to Nashville, and I hope they come back, despite my state government’s embarrassing behavior. It would have been far easier (and likely more profitable) to put on such an event in the San Francisco Bay Area.

However, I wonder how much longer Silicon Valley can remain The Valley. Increasing real estate costs are driving out many residents and making it nearly impossible for newcomers to make an impact. Who knows, maybe the future is right here in Tennessee? Housing is cheap, taxes are low, and we have plenty of water. And as the attendees of Pandoland can attest, the food is pretty good too.

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 22 June 2015

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

Lightroom CC 2015.1 and Lightroom 6.1 -- Adobe has issued updates to the two editions of its professional photo cataloging and editing application — Lightroom CC 2015.1 (available as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography plan; for more details, see “Photos Everywhere with Lightroom CC and Photos for OS X,” 11 May 2015) and the standalone Lightroom 6.1. Lightroom CC 2015.1 receives the new Dehaze feature for removing haze and fog from pictures (or, conversely, adding more haze to a photo). Additionally, Lightroom CC 2015.1 brings local white and black adjustment sliders to the Gradient Filter, Radial Filter, and Local adjustment brush tools, improving the capability to fine-tune tonality near the brightest and darkest parts of the picture. While it doesn’t gain the added features, Lightroom 6.1 does receive the same bug fixes as Lightroom CC 2015.1, including a resolution to a slow start that would devolve into an unending blue spinning wheel with any attempt to click within the app. To download this release, use the Creative Cloud application for Lightroom CC 2015, or the Check for Updates menu item in Lightroom 6. ($9.99 monthly subscription or $149 for the standalone app, release notes, 10.8+)

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Default Folder X 4.7.2 -- St. Clair Software has released Default Folder X 4.7.2 with a fix for an issue that affected Photoshop and Illustrator on OS X 10.10.3 Yosemite, where Yosemite file dialogs grew larger and larger when invoked by clicking a button in a modal dialog. The Open and Save dialog enhancement utility also corrects a hang that occurred when Default Folder X encountered a corrupted alias file in a favorite or recent folder, fixes a bug that caused the Save button to stop functioning after renaming a file in a Save As dialog, no longer requires Default Folder X to restart to receive changes made to favorite or default folders in System Preferences, and ensures Get Info works correctly in the French, German, Japanese and Danish localizations. ($34.95 new, $10 off for TidBITS members, free update, 11.0 MB, release notes, 10.6+)

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ChronoSync 4.6.2 and ChronoAgent 1.5.3 -- Econ Technologies has released ChronoSync 4.6.2 and ChronoAgent 1.5.3 with a variety of improvements for the synchronization and backup apps. Both ChronoSync and ChronoAgent improve progress reporting when copying package files, fix a bug that would perform a full copy rather than a merge for files in an HFS-compressed package, resolve an issue that could cause post-sync volume ejection to fail if the Synchronizer Document performing the task was open, and relax internal constraints regarding the maximum length of file paths. Additionally, ChronoSync 4.6.2 adds an option to probe all routes to a host when multiple routes exist; fixes a bug with the Delete, Rename and Duplicate functions that could cause crashes when Container Documents were open; patches some minor memory leaks; and fixes an issue that aborted sync/backup tasks with NAS devices if they reported erroneous file system information. (Free updates for both apps; $49.99 new for ChronoSync with a 20 percent discount for TidBITS members, 28.4 MB, release notes, 10.8+; $14.99 new for ChronoAgent, 10.3 MB, release notes, 10.8+)

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Audio Hijack 3.1.1 -- Rogue Amoeba has issued Audio Hijack 3.1.1 with several tweaks and bug fixes for the popular audio recording utility. The release updates the Instant On component to version 8.0.8 with several fixes, including one for noise that could occur with devices running at high sample rates. Audio Hijack 3.1.1 also ensures keyboard shortcuts work as expected, improves performance when using a large quantity of Timers, corrects the Home window tab order for VoiceOver, and resolves an incompatibility with Intermission. ($49 new with a 20 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update for version 3.0 licenses, $25 upgrade from older versions, 15.4 MB, release notes, 10.9+)

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Mellel 3.4 -- RedleX has released Mellel 3.4 with the added capability to export outlines and annotations to PDF, as well as several language handling improvements. Now a 64/32-bit universal binary app with Quick Look and Spotlight plug-ins, the word processor adds improved interaction for resizing images, improves handling and detection of clicks outside pages for better selection behavior, adjusts the design of Document and Find Set windows to better suit OS X 10.10 Yosemite, improves missing font substitution, correctly adjusts the cursor when moving over the ruler, and fixes an issue that caused Mellel to produce faulty OPML when choosing “export content as notes.” ($39 new from RedleX and the Mac App Store, free update, 93.4 MB, release notes, 10.6+)

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ExtraBITS for 22 June 2015

  by TidBITS Staff: editors@tidbits.com

This week we have only one link for you to read: Apple remains on top of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Who Has your Back?” report, while Google and Microsoft have lost ground.

Apple Remains on Top of the EFF’s “Who Has Your Back?” Report -- For the second year in a row, Apple has scored a perfect rating on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s annual “Who Has Your Back?” report, which ranks companies on five factors related to how they comply with government information requests and stand up for user privacy. The other companies with perfect scores are Adobe, Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Wikimedia, WordPress.com, and Yahoo. Google and Microsoft, which each had perfect ratings last year, have dropped to three stars. However, it’s difficult to compare this year’s ratings to last year’s, since the EFF has changed the parameters and reduced the maximum rating from six stars to five.

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