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Tech News

Apple hit with $6.6 million fine in Australia over 'Error 53' fiasco

June 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

South_agency via Getty Images

Australian authorities didn’t buy Apple’s explanation for the infamous Error 53 message, which bricked a lot of phones in 2016. The country’s federal court has slapped the tech giant with a US$6.6 million fine a year after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) filed a lawsuit against it over the phone-bricking error. If you’ll recall, Error 53 disabled phones that were previously repaired by third-party companies, even if it was just to replace cracked screens. Apple originally refused to fix the issue and explained that it bricked the devices to protect users from potentially malicious third-party Touch ID sensors. It eventually relented and rolled out a software patch, but the ACCC still proceeded with its lawsuit.

As ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court explained, you can’t tell Australians that “because you’ve had this third party repair, you are not entitled to any remedy.” She added users should be free to have their screens replaced and other repairs done by third-party companies, so long as the procedure “doesn’t damage the underlying system of the phone.” Under the Australian Consumer Law, “customers are legally entitled to a repair or a replacement… and sometimes even a refund” if a product is faulty.

Even before the court handed down its verdict, though, Apple already agreed to compensate approximately 5,000 customers who were affected by Error 53. Cupertino also promised to train employees about warranties under the Australian Consumer Law in order to ensure compliance going forward.

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Amazon Prime is now available in Australia

June 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Amazon launched its Prime service in Australia today, giving most Australians access to free two-day shipping, Prime Video and a number of other perks. A subscription will cost AU$59 (approximately $44) per year — as opposed to the US price of $119 — a discounted rate that takes into account a smaller selection of goods and higher prices. Amazon just launched in the country last December.

Prime comes just ahead of a new policy that will prevent Australian customers from shopping on other countries’ Amazon sites. The country has instituted a new law that requires retailers to collect goods and services tax on products shipped to Australia from abroad. And in response, Amazon has chosen to restrict Australian residents to its Australian website starting July 1st.

Amazon’s Australian site has around 60 million products, far fewer than the US’ 500 million. With Prime, Australians will have access to approximately 4 million items sold on the US site that they won’t have to pay shipping for as long as orders total more than AU$49. Amazon says around 90 percent of Australians will have access to two-day delivery. You can see a full list of regions that qualify here and they include metro areas such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. Non-metro areas that don’t qualify for free two-day delivery will have access to an expedited three- to five-day delivery option for no additional charge.

Amazon is offering a free trial as well as a monthly payment option. Until the end of January, users can get Prime for AU$5 per month and after that the fee will increase to AU$7 per month.

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Video referee technology influences its first World Cup goal

June 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Sergio Perez

When FIFA greenlit the use of video assistant referees at the 2018 World Cup, there was one overriding question: how long would it take before the technology shaped an important call? Not long at all, apparently. Two days into the group stage, officiators have used VAR to call for a key penalty after Australia’s John Risdon appeared to have fouled France’s Antoine Griezmann with a sliding tackle, disrupting a charge toward a possible goal. Griezmann promptly scored on the subsequent penalty kick, giving France the lead.

Tech played a crucial role later in the match, too. Goal-line systems once again helped France after a Paul Pogba shot bounced vertically off Australia’s crossbar. While it wasn’t initially clear if he’d scored, the equipment determined that the ball had creeped inches past the goal line and counted as France’s second, decisive point.

The game as a whole has been characterized as unexciting (two out of the three goals came from penalties). However, that might just underscore the value of VAR. While there are complaints that it can slow down play, it’s meant to provide clarity in messy situations like this. We wouldn’t be surprised if VAR and goal-line tech played vital roles throughout the rest of the Cup.

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Australia task force will protect elections against cyberattacks

June 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Governments around the world are taking various steps to prevent foreign elements from meddling with their elections. For some of them, it’s to prevent foreign interference yet again — the US, for instance, might use paper ballot backups that will allow officials to double check results. Australia is taking things a step further, though, and has formed a task force to guard its election process against cyberattacks and other methods. It’s called the “Electoral Integrity Task Force,” and it involves multiple agencies, including the Department of Finance and Home Affairs. A spokesperson told Reuters that the group will be in charge of identifying and addressing risks to the country’s electoral process.

He added that it’s not targeted “at any specific threat actor or impending malicious action,” but it’s likely a product of the Australian intelligence community’s warnings that foreign entities are trying to access classified info about the country’s military, economy and energy system. In fact, the government is expected to pass anti-foreign interference laws following reports of Chinese meddling, and they’ve been the cause of increasing friction between the two nations.

The task force’s spokesperson said in a statement that the group “is a precautionary measure,” which the country’s government believes will need to become the norm “in the age of increasing levels of cyber-enabled interference and disruption.” We’ll know very, very just how effective the task force is and if other countries should take a leaf out Australia’s book: the country is having five federal by-elections next month.