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Apple Beats an Apple Watch Lawsuit

Apple Beats an Apple Watch Lawsuit

In recent months, Apple has grappled with a series of lawsuits concerning the fate of its popular Apple Watch line. But this week, the company had a victory. As reported by Reuters, a federal judge ruled in Apple’s favor and dismissed an antitrust lawsuit that claimed that Apple had illegally monopolized the United States market on heart rate apps for the Apple Watch.

AliveCor, a medical device and AI company, filed the lawsuit in 2021. It claimed that Apple had abused its market power by injuring competition and engaging in “predatory” and “exclusionary” conduct related to the Apple Watch’s electrocardiogram (ECG) technology. The judge’s reasoning is currently not available due to confidentiality concerns, but the decision should be released at some point.

This is a separate lawsuit from the one filed by the medical tech company Masimo. As we previously reported, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) barred Apple from selling the Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 due to a patent infringement claim concerning the technology in the watch’s blood oxygen sensor. Apple appealed and was granted a temporary stay, but in January 2024, the US Court of Appeals declined to extend the stay further.

For the past few months, the company has been grappling with last-minute workarounds to avoid breaking the law. Since the ban only applies to Apple directly, you can still buy the watches with the blood oxygen sensor intact from other retailers for as long as supplies are available; otherwise, Apple has disabled the sensor and started shipping modified watches earlier this year.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, AliveCor noted that it plans to appeal the ruling. The company also notes that it still has another, entirely separate, ongoing suit regarding the ECG sensor that will be reviewed in upcoming months. In 2015, the company showed Apple its ECG sensor with the intention of future collaboration; then in 2018, Apple launched its own ECG sensor. The ITC ruled that Apple infringed on AliveCor’s technology. That case never resulted in a ban.

This week’s decision was a setback for smaller companies hoping to take on the tech giant. The good news for Apple Watch owners, though, is that their devices won’t lose any functionality, as they did as a result of the Masimo dispute.(And even then, if the blood oxygen sensor doesn’t matter to you, then the more affordable Watch SE never had that capability in the first place.) We will continue to update our Best Apple Watches guide with the best guidance we have at the time.

Apple Quadrupled Its Autonomous Driving Testing Miles Last Year

Apple Quadrupled Its Autonomous Driving Testing Miles Last Year

Apple’s secretive vehicle project doesn’t have much to show for its six years of work, at least publicly. But records submitted by the company to a California agency show that Apple went on an autonomous testing jag last year, almost quadrupling the number of miles it tested on public roads compared to 2022 and jumping 2021’s total by a factor of more than 30.

The data covers December 2022 to November 2023. The majority of the testing miles were in the second half of the reporting period, with miles tested peaking in August at 83,900.

Apple has a permit to test autonomous vehicle tech on California’s public roads only if the company has a safety driver behind the wheel—a first step that allows autonomous vehicle companies to collect more data on streets and determine how their software handles itself in traffic.

A handful of other companies, including Alphabet’s Waymo and Amazon’s Zoox, have the state’s permission to test without safety drivers. California allows just two companies—Waymo and autonomous delivery firm Nuro—to deploy commercial self-driving technology in California.

Apple’s testing totals are well below those of more advanced autonomous vehicle developers’, though the state’s reporting guidelines make them difficult to compare directly. Waymo drove 3.7 million testing miles in California with a safety driver behind the wheel and 1.2 million testing miles with no one behind the wheel. The company drove more than 1.6 million additional miles with passengers in the car, according to separate government documents. (Waymo is also operating a driverless service in Phoenix and is testing in Austin, Texas; its operations in those cities aren’t covered in this data.)

Even Cruise, General Motors’ troubled autonomous vehicle division, which had its permit to deploy in California suspended in October and halted nationwide testing soon after, drove almost 2.65 million testing miles in the state in 2023—almost 2.2 million more than Apple.

One of the Internet’s Oldest Software Archives Is Shutting Down

One of the Internet’s Oldest Software Archives Is Shutting Down

In a move that marks the end of an era, New Mexico State University (NMSU) recently announced the impending closure of its Hobbes OS/2 Archive on April 15, 2024. For over three decades, the archive has been a key resource for users of the IBM OS/2 operating system and its successors, which once competed fiercely with Microsoft Windows.

In a statement made to The Register, a representative of NMSU wrote, “We have made the difficult decision to no longer host these files on hobbes.nmsu.edu. Although I am unable to go into specifics, we had to evaluate our priorities and had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the service.”

Hobbes is hosted by the Department of Information & Communication Technologies at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. In the official announcement, the site reads, “After many years of service, hobbes.nmsu.edu will be decommissioned and will no longer be available. As of April 15th, 2024, this site will no longer exist.”

We reached out to New Mexico State University to inquire about the history of the Hobbes archive but did not receive a response. The earliest record we’ve found of the Hobbes archive online is this 1992 Walnut Creek CD-ROM collection that gathered up the contents of the archive for offline distribution. At around 32 years old, minimum, that makes Hobbes one of the oldest software archives on the internet, akin to the University of Michigan’s archives and ibiblio at UNC.

Archivists such as Jason Scott of the Internet Archive have stepped up to say that the files hosted on Hobbes are safe and already mirrored elsewhere. “Nobody should worry about Hobbes, I’ve got Hobbes handled,” wrote Scott on Mastodon in early January. OS/2 World.com also published a statement about making a mirror. But it’s still notable whenever such an old and important piece of internet history bites the dust.

Like many archives, Hobbes started as an FTP site. “The primary distribution of files on the internet were via FTP servers,” Scott tells Ars Technica. “And as FTP servers went down, they would also be mirrored as subdirectories in other FTP servers. Companies like CDROM.COM / Walnut Creek became ways to just get a CD-ROM of the items, but they would often make the data available at http://ftp.cdrom.com to download.”

The Hobbes site is a priceless digital time capsule. You can still find the Top 50 Downloads page, which includes sound and image editors, and OS/2 builds of the Thunderbird email client. The archive contains thousands of OS/2 games, applications, utilities, software development tools, documentation, and server software dating back to the launch of OS/2 in 1987. There’s a certain charm in running across OS/2 wallpapers from 1990, and even the archive’s Update Policy is a historical gem—last updated on March 12, 1999.

The legacy of OS/2

OS/2 began as a joint venture between IBM and Microsoft, undertaken as a planned replacement for IBM PC DOS (also called “MS-DOS” in the form sold by Microsoft for PC clones). Despite advanced capabilities like 32-bit processing and multitasking, OS/2 later competed with and struggled to gain traction against Windows. The partnership between IBM and Microsoft dissolved after the success of Windows 3.0, leading to divergent paths in OS strategies for the two companies.

Through iterations like the Warp series, OS/2 established a key presence in niche markets that required high stability, such as ATMs and the New York subway system. Today, its legacy continues in specialized applications and in newer versions (like eComStation) maintained by third-party vendors—despite being overshadowed in the broader market by Linux and Windows.

A footprint like that is worth preserving, and a loss of one of OS/2’s primary archives, even if mirrored elsewhere, is a cultural blow. Apparently, Hobbes has reportedly almost disappeared before but received a stay of execution. In the comments section for an article on The Register, someone named “TrevorH” wrote, “This is not the first time that Hobbes has announced it’s going away. Last time it was rescued after a lot of complaints and a number of students or faculty came forward to continue to maintain it.”

As the final shutdown approaches in April, the legacy of Hobbes is a reminder of the importance of preserving the digital heritage of software for future generations—so that decades from now, historians can look back and see how things got to where they are today.

This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.

How the Mighty Heat Pump Is Helping (but Not Solving) EVs’ Cold Weather Problem

How the Mighty Heat Pump Is Helping (but Not Solving) EVs’ Cold Weather Problem

Perhaps you’ve heard: In many places, it’s really very cold out. Deep freezes hit wide bands of the US this week; snow and freezing rain have swept across northern Europe. This is all less than ideal for electric vehicles, which historically have not loved the cold. A handful of Chicago Tesla Supercharger stations made headlines this week after some EVs affected by the temperatures completely ran out of battery and had to be towed.

Electric vehicles have a hard time in cold weather for two reasons. One is chemical: Lithium-ion batteries, the kind that make electric cars (and phones) go, rely on lithium ions moving from their negatively charged conductors (cathodes) to the positively charged ones (anodes). Cold makes the ions move more slowly to the anode, meaning it’s harder to charge a chilly battery than a toasty one. The other reason is more practical: Cold weather means car occupants are more likely to turn on the heat, and the heaters used to warm up a car draw power from the electric battery. This reduces range, sometimes significantly. Tests by AAA, Consumer Reports, and the EV battery data company Recurrent have found that freezing temperatures reduce vehicles’ ranges by somewhere between 16 and 46 percent. (Very cold weather also reduces gas-powered vehicles’ mileage, by between 15 and 24 percent.)

But in the past few years, a climate change hero technology has made its way into electric vehicles, one that has improved—but not solved—their cold weather issues: heat pumps. Heat pumps transfer heat from outside the car to help keep passengers warm, and so avoid sucking too much power away from the battery. And yes, heat pumps can still bring warm air into the car even if it’s freezing outside, albeit with mixed success. As counterintuitive as it sounds, there is still a good amount of heat that can be drawn from air that’s, say, 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Today, heat pumps come in many, but not all, new electric vehicles. Teslas have come with a proprietary heat pump tech since 2021. Jaguar’s I-Pace has one built in, as does BMW’s latest i-series cars, Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, Audi’s newest e-Tron, and Kia’s new electrified flagship, the EV9.

“Any electric vehicle that comes out right now and doesn’t have a heat pump is a dinosaur already,” says John Kelly, an automotive technology professor and instructor focusing on hybrid and electric vehicle technology at Weber State University.

Heat pumps are ultra-efficient because they transfer heat from existing sources instead of creating it. So in a home, if you’re using a furnace, you’re burning planet-warming gas to generate new heat that’s then blown around the structure. A heat pump instead extracts warmth from outdoor air and pumps it inside.

It’s the same principle for heat pumps in EVs. An internal-combustion car burns gasoline to power the vehicle, but in doing so it produces a whole lot of waste heat, which is then pumped into the cabin. Electric vehicles are way more efficient, with more than three-quarters of their electricity going towards moving the wheels, according to US federal data. That means there’s less waste heat to capture and warm the passengers. With a heat pump, an EV can extract warmth from outdoor air—again, even if it’s bitterly cold out—to warm the interior and even its battery, increasing the vehicle’s efficiency in cold weather.

The One Part of Apple Vision Pro That Apple Doesn’t Want You to See

The One Part of Apple Vision Pro That Apple Doesn’t Want You to See

Person wearing the Apple Vision Pro headset

Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal.

Courtesy of Joanna Stern

If Vision Pro is mostly meant to be used from a couch cushion or desk chair, the external battery pack may not factor in as much. As I pointed out last spring, it’s an unusual choice for a consumer tech company that has, over the past two decades, created products that we transport with us, literally everywhere we go.

Some industry experts are split on the external battery design. Bailenson, for one, believes that headset computing should be optimized for shorter durations. “After 30 minutes, it’s probably time to take off the headset and go about your day and touch some walls and drink some water,” he says. “So in this instance there really shouldn’t be a need for an external battery pack, in my opinion, because most experiences are short.”

Sam Cole, the cofounder and chief executive of FitXR, a fitness app popular on the Meta Quest, says that, “controversially,” he doesn’t believe the Vision Pro battery pack will be “as much of a factor for fitness apps as it will be for sitting and working for hours.”

The external battery for an Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset on display

By the way, here’s what it looks like.

Photograph: Philip Pacheco/Getty Images

“Even when headsets are bulkier, our users tend to forget about the cable, forget about the battery pack, because you’re so focused on punches being thrown at you,” Cole says. “The weight distribution and the accessories become much more topical when you’re thinking about working on a headset or sitting on calls for four hours.”

But Cole also says, battery pack aside, “all of the Vision Pro’s factors put together have led us to believe it’s a really high-quality experience. This is going to be as good as Meta Quest 3 if not better.”

Prior examples might not necessarily help read the battery tea leaves, either. Early versions of the Magic Leap AR goggles had an external “compute pack” that was designed for the wearer’s waistband. Microsoft’s HoloLens, on the other hand, packed what felt like an entire PC on your head. Neither product was successful; the placement of the battery pack was moot.

Apple did not respond to an inquiry as to why journalists and influencers were not able to take their own photos of Vision Pro or if the company plans to share more images of the battery.