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Develop GUI apps using Flutter on Fedora

When it comes to app development frameworks, Flutter is the latest and greatest. Google seems to be planning to take over the entire GUI app development world with Flutter, starting with mobile devices, which are already perfectly supported. Flutter allows you to develop cross-platform GUI apps for multiple targets — mobile, web, and desktop — from a single codebase.

This post will go through how to install the Flutter SDK and tools on Fedora, as well as how to use them both for mobile development and web/desktop development.

Installing Flutter and Android SDKs on Fedora

To get started building apps with Flutter, you need to install

  • the Android SDK;
  • the Flutter SDK itself; and,
  • optionally, an IDE and its Flutter plugins.

Installing the Android SDK

Flutter requires the installation of the Android SDK with the entire Android Studio suite of tools. Google provides a tar.gz archive. The Android Studio executable can be found in the android-studio/bin directory and is called To run it, open a terminal, cd into the aforementioned directory, and then run:

$ ./

Installing the Flutter SDK

Before you install Flutter you may want to consider what release channel you want to be on.

The stable channel is least likely to give you a headache if you just want to build a mobile app using mainstream Flutter features.

On the other hand, you may want to use the latest features, especially for desktop and web app development. In that case, you might be better off installing either the latest version of the beta or even the dev channel.

Either way, you can switch between channels after you install using the flutter channel command explained later in the article.

Head over to the official SDK archive page and download the latest installation bundle for the release channel most appropriate for your use case.

The installation bundle is simply a xz-compressed tarball (.tar.xz extension). You can extract it wherever you want, given that you add the flutter/bin subdirectory to the PATH environment variable.

Installing the IDE plugins

To install the plugin for Visual Studio Code, you need to search for Flutter in the Extensions tab. Installing it will also install the Dart plugin.

The same will happen when you install the plugin for Android Studio by opening the Settings, then the Plugins tab and installing the Flutter plugin.

Using the Flutter and Android CLI Tools on Fedora

Now that you’ve installed Flutter, here’s how to use the CLI tool.

Upgrading and Maintaining Your Flutter Installations

The flutter doctor command is used to check whether your installation and related tools are complete and don’t require any further action.

For example, the output you may get from flutter doctor right after installing on Fedora is:

Doctor summary (to see all details, run flutter doctor -v): [✓] Flutter (Channel stable, v1.12.13+hotfix.5, on Linux, locale it_IT.UTF-8) [!] Android toolchain - develop for Android devices (Android SDK version 29.0.2) ✗ Android licenses not accepted. To resolve this, run: flutter doctor --android-licenses [!] Android Studio (version 3.5) ✗ Flutter plugin not installed; this adds Flutter specific functionality. ✗ Dart plugin not installed; this adds Dart specific functionality. [!] Connected device ! No devices available ! Doctor found issues in 3 categories.

Of course the issue with the Android toolchain has to be resolved in order to build for Android. Run this command to accept the licenses:

$ flutter doctor --android-licenses

Use the flutter channel command to switch channels after installation. It’s just like switching branches on Git (and that’s actually what it does). You use it in the following way:

$ flutter channel <channel_name>

…where you’d replace <channel_name> with the release channel you want to switch to.

After doing that, or whenever you feel the need to do it, you need to update your installation. You might consider running this every once in a while or when a major update comes out if you follow Flutter news. Run this command:

$ flutter upgrade

Building for Mobile

You can build for Android very easily: the flutter build command supports it by default, and it allows you to build both APKs and newfangled app bundles.

All you need to do is to create a project with flutter create, which will generate some code for an example app and the necessary android and ios folders.

When you’re done coding you can either run:

  • flutter build apk or flutter build appbundle to generate the necessary app files to distribute, or
  • flutter run to run the app on a connected device or emulator directly.

When you run the app on a phone or emulator with flutter run, you can use the R button on the keyboard to use stateful hot reload. This feature updates what’s displayed on the phone or emulator to reflect the changes you’ve made to the code without requiring a full rebuild.

If you input a capital R character to the debug console, you trigger a hot restart. This restart doesn’t preserve state and is necessary for bigger changes to the app.

If you’re using a GUI IDE, you can trigger a hot reload using the bolt icon button and a hot restart with the typical refresh button.

Building for the Desktop

To build apps for the desktop on Fedora, use the flutter-desktop-embedding repository. The flutter create command doesn’t have templates for desktop Linux apps yet. That repository contains examples of desktop apps and files required to build on desktop, as well as examples of plugins for desktop apps.

To build or run apps for Linux, you also need to be on the master release channel and enable Linux desktop app development. To do this, run:

$ flutter config --enable-linux-desktop

After that, you can use flutter run to run the app on your development workstation directly, or run flutter build linux to build a binary file in the build/ directory.

If those commands don’t work, run this command in the project directory to generate the required files to build in the linux/ directory:

$ flutter create .

Building for the Web

Starting with Flutter 1.12, you can build Web apps using Flutter with the mainline codebase, without having to use the flutter_web forked libraries, but you have to be running on the beta channel.

If you are (you can switch to it using flutter channel beta and flutter upgrade as we’ve seen earlier), you need to enable web development by running flutter config –enable-web.

After doing that, you can run flutter run -d web and a local web server will be started from which you can access your app. The command returns the URL at which the server is listening, including the port number.

You can also run flutter build web to build the static website files in the build/ directory.

If those commands don’t work, run this command in the project directory to generate the required files to build in the web/ directory:

$ flutter create .

Packages for Installing Flutter

Other distributions have packages or community repositories to install and update in a more straightforward and intuitive way. However, at the time of writing, no such thing exists for Flutter. If you have experience packaging RPMs for Fedora, consider contributing to this GitHub repository for this COPR package.

The next step is learning Flutter. You can do that in a number of ways:

  • Read the good API reference documentation on the official site
  • Watching some of the introductory video courses available online
  • Read one of the many books out there today. [Check out the author’s bio for a suggestion! — Ed.]

Photo by Randall Ruiz on Unsplash.

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Chinese app makers can now enroll in Apple Developer Program through Apple Developer app


Apple on Tuesday updated its new Apple Developer app to support Developer Program enrollment for coders based in mainland China, offering the feature as an app-based renewable subscription for the first time.

Apple Developer app

Announced in a post to Apple’s developer website, the new Apple Developer app capability enables a fast and easy membership route for Chinese developers.

With in-app purchase support, app makers are able to start and finish their membership purchase with local payment methods on iOS devices like iPhone or iPad, negating the need to visit Apple’s dedicated web portal. And like other versions of the Apple Developer app, enrollment in the Developer Program appears as an auto-renewable subscription, facilitating painless upkeep and account management.

Apple introduced the Apple Developer app in November as a reworking of its dedicated WWDC app. Along with options for Developer Program enrollment and account management, the title offers access to year-round news, informational videos and other assets deemed helpful to the app making process.

Previously, developer content was spread across the WWDC app, Apple’s developer webpage and other online repositories. According to Apple, the redesigned app will serve its original role as a guide to the Worldwide Developers Conference when the gathering takes place in June.

Initially available to U.S. users, the option to enroll in Apple’s Developer Program through Apple Developer will slowly roll out to additional locales. China is one of the first to net the feature.

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Leaked Apple document says new Siri device is coming by fall 2021


Leaked documents relating to Siri reveal upgrades to the digital assistant are coming in late 2021, aimed at supporting a new piece of hardware.

A list of Siri upgrades expected to arrive before “fall 2021” includes expected elements for “new hardware support” for a “new device,” though a report published on Friday is light on those details. Codenamed “Yukon,” the upgrades to Siri will introduce support for Find my Friends to the voice-based service, the documents claim. Siri will also include support for accessing the App Store, though the capabilities relating to that are not advised by a report.

Built-in machine translation could enable language interpreting capabilities within Siri, without needing a cellular or other network connection at all, a feature that could be handy for travelers.

A large section of the internal documents, provided to The Guardian by a former Siri “grader,” mentions how Siri could work with other devices in a variety of ways. At its simplest, features to enable Siri to read out message notifications to users wearing AirPods is suggested, while the ability to use Shazam via Siri on Apple Watch is also touted.

A bigger feature could be commanding Siri on one device to perform actions on another. One example given is to “Play Taylor Swift on my HomePod,” which could be said on an Apple Watch or iPhone remotely and interpreted to control the user’s smart speaker at home.

Arguably the biggest element is the ability to “have a back-and-forth conversation about health problems” with Siri. While this could take the form of Siri providing a basic diagnosis of the user to see if medical treatment is worth attaining, it is also possible that the conversations could form part of HealthKit or ResearchKit, Apple’s initiatives in the medical field.

Despite the lack of information relating to what kind of new Siri-equipped devices are on the way, one of the most likely candidates is the HomePod, which is enjoying success in reaching markets like China where rival systems from Google and Amazon aren’t available. It is plausible that Apple could produce a “mini” version of the HomePod, offering consumers a cheaper and smaller version in a similar vein to the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot.

Apple has been rumored to be working on a new generation of the audio device for some time, with a cheaper variant also predicted by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in April 2018, though such a model has yet to be launched.

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Apple working with Burberry on ‘R Message’ retail messaging app


Burberry has worked with Apple on a chat service called ‘R Message,’ one that allows customers to communicate with sales associates from within from the retailer’s app, allowing consumers to make appointments, receive personalized recommendations with staff members who know them, and to buy products.

R Message aims to extend how the fashion brand communicates with its most important customers. The invitation-only service will put customers directly in touch with sales associates, which will enable the customer and the staff member to build a relationship, with the customer able to receive a more personalized service, while stores can encourage more purchases down the line.

Created in partnership with Apple, R Message is relatively similar to the idea of Apple Business Chat, except rather than functioning within iMessage, the activity occurs entirely within Burberry’s R World app, reports Vogue Business.

The app will also offer numerous benefits for Burberry, with its integration with its back-end inventory system enabling not only for orders to be made, but for sales associates to see what is available and to drive sales to customers who may be interested in the items. The employee-side app also includes a newsfeed that includes company updates, advertising campaign images, and press mentions, to try and encourage store staff to use the app.

“”You’ve got highly skilled associates who know how to serve in a luxury way, but even for a great associate, there might be 10 percent extra that you can give them by giving them the right information at the right time,” said Burberry VP of digital commerce. “Customers now know much more about what they want, and to be at that service level where you can give credible advice, you need the basics.

Burberry is piloting the app at its flagship store in Manchester, with a view to rolling it out to all 431 global stores and 6,000 associates.

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Apple’s iOS Contacts app claimed to be vulnerable to SQLite hack

Researchers at security conference Def Con 2019 demonstrated a method of exploiting regular database searches to produce malicious results, and used Apple’s standard iOS Contacts app to prove it.

Apple's iOS Contacts is one of the many applications that uses SQLite

Apple’s iOS Contacts is one of the many applications that uses SQLite

Security firm Check Point has demonstrated a vulnerability in the industry-standard SQLite database format which can be exploited. Speaking at Def Con 2019, the company showed the technique being used to manipulate Apple’s iOS Contacts app. Searching the Contacts app under these circumstances can be enough to make the device run malicious code.

“SQLite is the most wides-spread database engine in the world,” said the company in a statement. “It is available in every operating system, desktop and mobile phone. Windows 10, macOS, iOS, Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Android are popular users of SQLite.”

“In short, we can gain control over anyone who queries our SQLite-controlled database,” they continued.

When you search for a contact or look up information in any app, you are really searching a database and very commonly that will be using SQLite.

Documented In a 4,000-word report seen by AppleInsider, the company’s hack involved replacing one part of Apple’s Contacts app and it also relied on a known bug that has hasn’t been fixed four years after it was discovered.

“Wait, what? How come a four-year-old bug has never been fixed?” write the researchers in their document. “This feature was only ever considered vulnerable in the context of a program that allows arbitrary SQL from an untrusted source and so it was mitigated accordingly. However, SQLite usage is so versatile that we can actually still trigger it in many scenarios.”

In other words, the bug has been considered unimportant because it was believed it could only be triggered by an unknown application accessing the database, and in a closed system like iOS, there are no unknown apps. However, Check Point’s researchers then managed to make a trusted app send the code to trigger this bug and exploit it.

They replaced a specific component of the Contacts app and found that while apps and any executable code has to have gone through Apple’s startup checks, an SQLite database is not executable.

“Persistency [keeping the code on the device after a restart] is hard to achieve on iOS,” they said, “as all executable files must be signed as part of Apple’s Secure Boot. Luckily for us, SQLite databases are not signed.”

Detail from the Check Point team's hack documentation

Detail from the Check Point team’s hack documentation

They had to have access to the unlocked device to install this replacement for part of Contacts. After that, though, they were able to choose what they wanted to happen when the Contacts database was searched.

For the purpose of the demonstration, they just had the app crash. The researchers said that they could have crafted the app to steal passwords.

“We established that simply querying a database may not be as safe as you expect,” they said. “We proved that memory corruption issues in SQLite can now be reliably exploited.”

“Our research and methodology have all been responsibly disclosed to Apple,” they concluded.

This is not the first time that a problem in an SQLite database has resulted in a bug, nor one that remained unfixed for years.

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iOS 13 could add support for Hong Kong’s Octopus transit card


Lines of code discovered on a public Apple services content server reference iOS 13 support for Hong Kong’s Octopus, suggesting the widely used touchless payment system could arrive on iPhone this fall.

Smart Octopus in Samsung Pay

Spotted by Japan-centric Apple blog Ata Distance, a code snippet in Apple’s JSON backbone for Wallet now displays supported credentials for Octopus card on iPhones running iOS 13. The transit and retail payment card is also available via Express Card NFC technology.

Apple Watch is not yet supported, with Apple’s server showing a minimum supported watchOS value of “999.0,” though that could change as the company continues work on watchOS 6.

Launched in 1997, Octopus card was the second contactless “smart card” to hit the consumer market and is considered a forebear of modern reloadable electronic payment solutions. Initially marketed as a physical tap-to-pay card, Octopus expanded to smartphones with Smart Octopus for Samsung Pay in 2017.

Since it is based on the FeliCa standard, Smart Octopus is technically compatible with iPhone 7 and newer Apple devices, though an exclusivity agreement has so far kept the payment platform restricted to Samsung handsets. That could change this fall with the launch of iOS 13.

Initially developed by Sony as an RFID chip solution, FeliCa was later hybridized for cellphone use with the cooperation of Japan’s leading cellular provider NTT Docomo. That version, called Mobile FeliCa, served as the basis of Apple’s NFC Type-F implementation in iPhone and Apple Watch, and ultimately Apple Pay integration with Japan’s Suica mobile transit card system in 2016.

According to Ata Distance, Octopus’ Apple Pay device profile is identical to that of Suica, meaning users can generate and manage new cards without leaving the Wallet app on Japanese market iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, and all iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS and XS Plus and iPhone XR variants.

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Review: GigSky, an eSIM service for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

GigSky is a mobile cell service provider with a history of catering to Apple users, providing service in more than 190 countries. When they announced their eSIM for iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, AppleInsider gave it a shot.

You may not have heard of GigSky, but they aren’t new; they’ve been around since 2010. In 2015, the firm began offering support for the Apple SIM for iPads, a SIM Apple provides which lets you select providers from within iOS.

From the very beginning, they’ve placed an emphasis on providing service for international travelers, and the eSIM offering fits right in that niche.

What it is

The iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are equipped with an eSIM.

A SIM card contains the SIM chip, essentially a very small computer that is programmed with all the carrier’s settings to enable phone service. With most modern phones, you have to insert a SIM to activate mobile phone service.

The eSIM, or embedded SIM, is that same functionality as a programmable computer built into the iPhone.

The advantage of doing this is that it saves space in the phone: you don’t need to have physical space for the physical card, you don’t need the contacts inside to receive it, you don’t need the ejector mechanism, which means Apple can use that interior space for something else.

With the 2019 iPhones, excluding the dual-SIM model for China, it’s possible to set up a mobile phone data provider directly from an app, such as the one provided by GigSky.

How it works

When Apple announced eSIM functionality, they mentioned using a QR code to set it up. In GigSky’s case, you download the GigSky app and are guided through choosing a plan.

GigSky has a range of four plans covering time, data and cost ranges

GigSky has a range of four plans covering time, data and cost ranges

GigSky has data plans starting from 300MB (1 day, $10), and rising through 500MB, 1GB, 2GB (15 days, $15, $20, $30 respectively), and up to 5GB (30 days, $50.) After selecting the plan, the destination needs to be chosen from the long list of countries. For this review, Las Vegas was selected as the location.

Las Vegas is a difficult city for mobile data. The tall buildings of the strip negatively affect signal, and the increased number of people for conventions place huge demands on the cell towers, especially when tech conferences are in town.

In years’ past, we’ve used Verizon reasonably well, AT&T with poor results, and T-Mobile with mixed results, seemingly depending on how high up a building we were.

It’s not clear which providers GigSky uses in the US, or which providers they use in any of the 190 countries. We asked for this information, but had not received answers at time of publication. This was important to us, because if our regular carrier was Verizon, and they’re using Verizon’s towers, then it provides limited benefit to add as a secondary data provider.

After selecting a data plan, you give the eSIM a nickname, or can delete it if you need to, because perhaps you selected the incorrect plan or wrong country.

Payment for the plan was easy, but the steps that followed were a little more complicated, because you have to leave the GigSky app and be prompted to add the cellular plan within some screens that the iPhone displays. GigSky offers some screen images to help guide you through the process.

You add the plan to your phone, and have to give it a label, as well as changing any further settings, such as selecting it as a data-only plan.

Setting up GigSky is relatively easy

Setting up GigSky is relatively easy

After doing this, reviewing the plan will show that the credits are active, and the signal strength bar will have a second line of bars below it indicating an additional plan is in use.

Using Control Center shows both signal bars with the names of the services, and indicators for whether they’re primary or secondary. In Settings > Cellular, it’s easy to change which service is primary or secondary, and it’s possible to set one service as primary for voice, and the other as primary for data.

And then completing the iOS setup to get GigSky working

Completing the iOS setup to get GigSky’s eSIM connected

When the screen is locked, you also get the carrier labels, although the labels are on the left side of the screen with the signal strength bars on the right side of the screen.

The lock screen and control center display both service's signal strength

The lock screen and control center display both service’s signal strength’s app shows the GigSky eSIM tested at 74.21 Mbps, with AT&T detected as the nearest site to speed test through. The app also thought the provider was Zayo. As Zayo has 12.3 million miles of fiber according to their Web site, it’s possible that GigSky eventually routed back to Zayo’s backbone.

The different kinds of results from

The different kinds of results from The slow result was my default Verizon Wireless service.

Testing Verizon Wireless against GigSky was revealing: download speeds were 10.4 Mbps. Even testing GigSky with different destinations offered better results than Verizon’s 10.4 Mbps. The worst GigSky result scored on the iPhone XS Max used for testing was 40.2 Mbps.

It’s important to note that this may not be similar to your experience if you don’t live or travel in Las Vegas or the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, but we are encouraged that GigSky partnered with competent carriers.

What we thought of it

Set up was easy, as at no time did we feel confused or lost, although we did take a minute to read all the steps, where normally we might have just tapped through. Even where setup is mildly complex (the handoff between GigSky and Apple), they do attempt to make it easy by providing the necessary information before hand.

Speeds are fast, at least in the areas we tested: Eastern USA and Las Vegas. We never felt like we were without signal in either region.

GigSky is probably the easiest method for having local data service, especially over the old ways of finding a cell phone store, buying a pay-go SIM, and having to figure out how to top up.

The use of the eSIM in general makes this easy, and doing it through an app is even easier. The downside we predict with international travel would be the fact that you need to have some sort of data connection to buy GigSky data in the first place, in which case users abroad have to find someplace with Wi-Fi long enough to set it all up.

The notion of buying 5GB for $50 is fine, but the notion of that being time-limited is lousy, and a real shame. If you buy 5GB for $50 and the unused portion expires, it’s fair to feel a little cheated. We understand this is how data is priced among carriers, but it’s a disappointment that there isn’t a carrier willing to change this.

Score: 4 out of 5

The GigSky app is available on the iOS App Store.

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‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite’ lands on iPhone in 25 more countries


Niantic and WB Games is expanding the availability of the wildly-popular ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” bringing the AR-based iOS game to 25 more countries around the world just one day after the title launched in just four major markets.

Harry Potter Wizards Unite iOS

“Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” went live on Friday in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, following a beta period in the latter two countries. Joining those four are another 25 countries, with players able to download the game from the App Store straight away.

The long-awaited launch in a limited number of countries is thought to be Niantic’s attempt to limit how many players are in the game at the start, so as to not strain its infrastructure. Niantic’s previous and similar title “Pokemon Go” rolled out at a far slower pace, with servers reaching capacity as the game went live in each region.

The latest countries to get the “Harry Potter” title are: Austria, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The official website advises the game will roll out to more countries “soon.”

“Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” puts players in the role of a protector of the secret wizarding world, tasked with covering up events of “The Calamity” from the non-magical “Muggles.” Similar in concept to “Pokemon Go,” players can walk around their local environment to collect items and to complete challenges, as well as to take part in multiplayer Wizarding Challenges.

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ICYMI: iOS SCUBA diving HUD, Hot Wheels Smart Track, Quad 4K dock & more

During the week we don’t always have time to cover everything, so here are a few releases this week that went under the radar including a new iOS compatible dive computer, a futuristic Hot Wheel set, and more.




SCUBAPRO has launched a new mask-mounted dive computer that works wirelessly with iOS devices and Macs.

The Galileo HUD dive computer is built on the popular Galileo 2 wrist-worn dive computer but built into a more convenient heads-up display. By bringing a display right into view instead of affixed to your wrist or your console, divers can keep their surroundings in view. It allows divers to see their critical dive information such as bottom time, NDL, ascent/descent rate, and remaining air through their mask on a full-color OLED panel.



Galileo HUD is both Trimix and Nitrox compatible thanks to the included gas-integration transmitter. It can be mounted to many popular SCUBAPRO masks.

Post-dive, dive information can be transferred wirelessly via Bluetooth through to an iOS device or Mac (as well as Android and PCs) with the SCUBAPRO LogTRAK software.

The Galileo HUD dive computer is available on Amazon for $1,699 with the air transmitter bundled.

Hot Wheels id

Hot Wheels is bringing its popular cars to the future with Hot Wheels id. Available exclusively at Apple Stores, this new track and car set still features high-quality die cast cars but with embedded NFC chips that allow you to add them to the app and keep track of stuff like their speed around the track.

Hot Wheels id

There is also a new track available that has been redesigned, while still somewhat working with pervious Hot Wheels track.the new track works with the Race Portal which is how you add cars to the app and helps monitor their speed, total distance traveled, and more. The new track also enhances jumping, racing, and — of course — crashing.

Each car will run you $6.99, the Race Portal comes in at $39.99 and the Smart Track Kit is $179.99.

Orico M.2 transparent SSD enclosure

Orico has unveiled a transparent series M.2 NVMe SSD hard drive enclosure. The new enclosure supports UASP and TRIM, and connects through USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port. Orico claims that the enclosure can read & write up to 950 megabytes per second, assuming the drive is fast enough.

Drives up to 2TB are supported, and the enclosure fits the 2230, 2242, 2260, and 2280 sizes.

The enclosure retails for $39.99 without a drive, and is available with a heatsink in a variety of colors. A USB-C to USB-C and USB-A to USB-C cable is included.

Targus Quad 4K Docking Station

The new Targus DOCK570USZ docking station uses DisplayLink to allow a single host to connect to four DisplayPort monitors at 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz, or HDMI displays at 3840 x 2160 at 50Hz. Beyond just the displays, the dock provides up to 100W of power to an upstream device via the USB 3.1 type C connector, and has four USB-A ports connecting at USB 3.0 speed.

Network connectivity is supplied by a Gigabit Ethernet port, and it also has a 3.5mm combination audio in and out port.

The Targus DOCK570USZ retails for $399. It debuted at the InfoComm trade show, and will be available for purchase “later in 2019” according to the company.

Other notable releases

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Apple’s iOS soft keyboard target of new patent lawsuit

Apple’s vaunted iOS keyboard, a piece of user interface technology that helped usher in the smartphone revolution, is in infringement of a nearly 20-year-old patent covering similar input solutions, according to a new lawsuit.

Illustration of Higginson’s “Universal keyboard.” | Source: USPTO

Filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, a patent suit from Princeps Interface Technologies alleges Apple’s keyboard infringes on the work of Timothy Higginson, a technology industry lawyer and inventor.

At issue is Higginson’s U.S. Patent No. 6,703,963 for a “Universal keyboard.”

Filed in 2002 and granted in 2004, the intellectual property covers a multifunctional input device in which a set of static keys are programmed to output command signals based on a plurality of functional modes. An example provided presents functional sets, or modes, relating to email, PDA, fax and internet inputs.

These modes are further divided into multi-level domains which, when selected, dynamically change the output model of the device’s keys. For example, alphanumeric mode domains might display different sets of words, symbols or numbers, while domains in an internet navigator mode display URLs. Users can access more than one mode at any given time.

Other keys on the device are dedicated to traditional controls found on QWERTY keyboards. Patent language describes these keys as covering Esc, Alt, Ctrl, Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Enter, Backspace and other typical inputs. A cursor control, in this case a joystick, is also offered.

According to the lawsuit, the ‘963 patent resolves “technical problems related to data input devices, and particularly, to problems related to the utilization of small profile data input devices.” More specifically, the input device adapts the QWERTY keyboard for one-handed or two-thumb use.

Apple debuted its first onscreen keyboard for a portable device with iPhone in 2007. Offering basic functionality at launch, the UI has been refined over more than a decade to include advanced features like AI-powered predictive text, multi-function key support, gesture integration and more. Apple is slated to introduce a new swipe-to-type keyboard called QuickPath when iOS 13 and iPadOS see release this fall.

Princeps appears to be a non-practicing entity created for the sole purpose of leveraging Higginson’s patents in court actions. The firm owns six properties invented by Higginson that were previously assigned to Yuvee, a tech consultancy and UI development firm he founded in 2004. While Yuvee holds active status in some third-party corporate databases, the company seemingly shuttered in 2016.

Princeps in its suit seeks damages and legal fees from Apple.