US judge grants final approval to Apple’s $50 million ‘butterfly’ keyboard settlement

A US federal court this week gave final approval to the $50 million class-action settlement Apple came to last July resolving claims the company knew about and concealed the unreliable nature of keyboards on MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro computers released between 2015 and 2019. Per Reuters (via 9to5Mac), Judge Edward Davila on Thursday called the settlement involving Apple’s infamous “butterfly” keyboards “fair, adequate and reasonable.” Under the agreement, MacBook users impacted by the saga will receive settlements between $50 and $395. More than 86,000 claims for class member payments were made before the application deadline last March, Judge Davila wrote in his ruling.

Apple debuted the butterfly keyboard in 2015 with the 12-inch MacBook. At the time, former design chief Jony Ive boasted that the mechanism would allow the company to build ever-slimmer laptops without compromising on stability or typing feel. As Apple re-engineered more of its computers to incorporate the butterfly keyboard, Mac users found the design was susceptible to dust and other debris. The company introduced multiple revisions to make the mechanism more resilient before eventually returning to a more conventional keyboard design with the 16-inch MacBook Pro in late 2019.

Apple won’t have to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement. Before this week, some members of the class action lawsuit attempted to challenge the deal on the grounds that a proposed $125 payout for one group in the class was not enough, an appeal Judge Davila rejected. “The possibility that a better settlement may have been reached — or that the benefits provided under the settlement will not make class members 'whole' — are insufficient grounds to deny approval,” Davila wrote in his ruling. The judge also rejected a request for compensation from MacBook owners who experienced keyboard failures but did not get their computers serviced by Apple. There’s no word when claimants can expect their payment to be sent out, but the lawyers involved in the case said they “look forward to getting the money out to our clients.”

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Apple’s AirPods Max are $99 off at Amazon

Apple's high-end, over-ear headphones may be a bit over the top, but they are one of the best pieces of audio gear for Apple enthusiasts. The catch is that you have to be willing to shell out quite a bit of cash for them, which is why we always recommend waiting for a sale like the one happening now ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. Apple's AirPods Max are $99 off at Amazon right now, bringing them down to $450. That's about $20 more than their record-low price, and most colors are on sale as well, making now a good time to buy if you've had your eye on them.

There's a lot to like about the AirPods Max if you get get beyond their price. They have a unique, comfortable design that's more attractive than most high-end headphones, and they have excellent audio quality. Those who like "natural" sound from their cans will appreciate what the AirPods Max bring to the table, and we like that they also support spatial audio. Active noise cancellation is similarly solid, and there's a button on the headphones that let you switch between ANC and Transparency Mode.

The AirPods Max also have Apple's signature H1 chip inside that enables features like hands-free Siri and a host of other iOS/macOs-specific features. If you work with mostly Apple gadgets, you'll get a lot of use out of the quick pairing and switching between those devices. Battery life is good as well: we had no problem reaching 20 hours on a single charge when we first reviewed these headphones, and that was with spatial audio and ANC enabled.

We'd be remiss, though, if we didn't acknowledge that the AirPods Max are not on our list of best wireless headphones, and that's mostly due to their high price tag. They're certainly a better buy when on sale like this, but if you'd rather invest in a better all-around option, Sony's WH-1000XM5 (our current top pick) is on sale for a record low of $348 right now.

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YouTube Stories are going away on June 26th

YouTube creators can wave goodbye to Stories, as the service is killing off its version of the feature. Starting on June 26th, it'll no longer be possible to create a new YouTube Story. Any Stories you post before that date will vanish seven days after they're uploaded.

YouTube first said in late 2017 that it was testing the format (funnily enough, YouTube Stories were originally called "reels"). The platform changed the name and it started rolling out the feature more broadly the following year.

We've seen many social platforms incorporate a Story feature over the last several years after Snapchat popularized the format, most notably Instagram. As with Twitter and LinkedIn, though, YouTube is ditching its take on the feature.

In truth, YouTube probably doesn't need both Stories and its TikTok-style Shorts, which aren't going anywhere anytime soon. The service also noted creators can use Community posts to share quick updates with their audiences. YouTube said that, among creators who use "posts and Stories, posts on average drive many times more comments and likes compared to Stories."

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The second-gen Apple Pencil is once again on sale for $85

The second-gen Apple Pencil is one of the best iPad accessories around, especially for those who do creative work or like to write out notes on their tablet. Best of all, it’s once again on sale. You can pick up the latest Apple Pencil now for $85. That matches a record low and it's $44 off the regular price.

The stylus has a double-tap feature that enables you to quickly switch between tools. Low latency is useful as well, especially if you're trying to quickly sketch out an idea. Other functions include tilt capabilities and pressure sensitivity. If you have the latest M2-powered iPad Pro, you'll also be able to take advantage of a Hover feature. This allows you to hold the Pencil just above the screen and see a preview of what will happen before you actually make changes to your design or document by touching the display with the stylus.

Being able to attach the Apple Pencil to the side of your tablet magnetically is both a neat touch and a convenient way to charge it — you won't have to futz around with yet another charging cable. Most importantly, before you buy the peripheral, make sure it’s actually compatible with your iPad.

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New Microsoft Surface Pro X bug causes camera to stop working

Not a great look for the Surface Pro X. The camera for the tablet has reportedly stopped working entirely for some users. It’s unclear at the time of writing what’s causing the issue and how long it will be before an update will be issued to fix it.

The Verge reports that the camera on the Surface Pro X have stopped working starting this week. The publication was able to independently confirm the issue, and claims that this bug affects “everyone”. Dozens of users on Reddit, Twitter (1, 2, 3, 4) and Microsoft’s support forums are also saying that their cameras aren’t working and claim that reinstalling the camera’s drivers won’t fix the problem. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

Owners of the tablet say that rolling the device’s date back to May 22nd in system settings makes the camera work again, indicating that this may possibly be an expired certificate issue. And while that may be a functional workaround, rolling back the date on any device causes a whole mountain of issues. This includes authentication on websites, potential calendar and scheduling mayhem and (somewhat ironically) could cause Windows update to not work properly. If you’re okay with that, feel free but proceed at your own risk. We highly suggest that you wait for an official update from Microsoft if you can.

The Surface Pro X, which was originally released in 2019, was a 2-in-1 tablet-laptop fusion device that offered excellent hardware for the time and a comfortable typing experience. Unfortunately, buggy software and limited app compatibility were the device’s ultimate demise, even after Microsoft lowered the price in late 2021. Regardless, we hope that an update comes soon to resolve the issue for Surface Pro X owners.

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Microsoft says China installed malware in US systems in Guam

China may have conducted digital espionage against the US' Pacific interests. Microsoft and the National Security Agency (NSA) have revealed that an alleged state-sponsored Chinese hacking group, Volt Typhoon, installed surveillance malware in "critical" systems on the island of Guam and elsewhere in the US. The group has been operating since mid-2021 and reportedly compromised government organizations as well as communications, manufacturing, education and other sectors.

Volt Typhoon prioritizes stealth, according to the investigators. It uses "living off the land" techniques that rely on resources already present in the operating system, as well as direct "hands-on-keyboard" action. They use the command line to scrape credentials and other data, archive the info and use it to stay in targeted systems. They also try to mask their activity by sending data traffic through small and home office network hardware they control, such as routers. Custom tools help them set up a command and control channel through a proxy that keeps their info secret.

The malware hasn't been used for attacks, but the web shell-based approach could be used to damage infrastructure. Microsoft and the NSA are publishing info that could help potential victims detect and remove Volt Typhoon's work, but they warn that fending off intrusions could be "challenging" as it requires either closing or changing affected accounts.

US officials speaking to The New York Times believe the Guam infiltration is part of a larger Chinese intelligence collection system that includes the reported spy balloon that floated across American nuclear sites early this year. The focus Guam is concerning as it's home to Andersen Air Force Base, a major station that would likely be used for any US answer to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It's also a key hub for ships in the Pacific.

The Biden administration has stepped up efforts to protect critical infrastructure, including plans for common security requirements. The US fell prey to multiple attacks on vital systems in recent years, including gas pipelines and meat suppliers. The Volt Typhoon discovery underscores the importance of tougher defenses — malware like this could compromise the US military at a crucial moment.

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iOS 17 will reportedly turn your locked iPhone into a smart display

Your iPhone might soon display more than a handful of tiny widgets when it's locked. Bloombergsources claim Apple's iOS 17 update will introduce a lock screen that effectively turns an iPhone into a smart display when sitting on its side. You'll reportedly see calendar items, notifications and other details in a high-contrast layout reminiscent of what you'd see on an Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub. The new lock screen is said to be more advanced than the one Google brought to Android 10 in 2019, and comparable to an Amazon Fire tablet feature.

Apple has already declined to comment. The company is expected to introduce iOS 17 at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on June 5th, and release the finished version no earlier than September. There's no mention of whether or not the iPad would similar functionality, although iPadOS has lagged behind iOS in features like lock screen customization.

This might not be Apple's only smart display initiative. The tech giant is rumored to be developing multiple smart home devices that could include a mountable screen. The iOS 17 upgrade is believed to be part of a larger effort to surface live information, including a major watchOS redesign focused on widgets.

iOS 17 is already rumored to include a number of significant changes, such as app sideloading in at least some countries. You might also see improvements to SharePlay video collaboration, and it might be easier to AirPlay content to hotel TVs and other devices you don't own. A life journaling app could join upgraded versions of the Health and Wallet apps.

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Watch the Microsoft Build 2023 keynote in under 10 minutes

Microsoft Build 2023 kicked off with an opening keynote from CEO Satya Nadella, followed by two other keynote sessions. Surprising absolutely no one, there was a big focus on AI. While we have coverage of all the big news, if you want to hear the updates straight from the source without watching the entire thing, you can check out our supercut below.

Perhaps the biggest announcement is that Microsoft will soon embed AI deeply into Windows 11. Windows Copilot, which you'll be able to try a preview of next month, can be used in a similar way to Bing AI. So, you can ask it general questions like you would of the search engine chatbot. However, you can also use text prompts to change Windows settings, summarize documents and carry out a host of other tasks on your desktop.

Also on the Windows 11 front, AI will power live captions for more languages and Microsoft will roll out Bluetooth Low Energy Audio support for compatible devices. Elsewhere, the company will infuse AI into the Microsoft Store and Edge. On top of that, Bing Search will soon be integrated into ChatGPT, while Microsoft plans to help third-party developers build their own AI apps and copilots that are compatible with ChatGPT.

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The Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3 is full-featured, eco-friendly and reasonably priced

Arturia's KeyLab Essential series is kind of the sweet spot in its lineup. It has most of the same core features as the company's flagship KeyLab series, but with a less premium build and a few less hands-on controls. But it's they're also about half the price. The new KeyLab Essential mk3 delivers even better value with more controls, a bigger screen and a more eco-conscious build. 

The mk3 will initially be available in 49- and 61-key varieties, in both black and white finishes. While there was no announcement of an upgraded 88-key model, I wouldn't be surprised if Arturia added one down the line. On the surface the KeyLab Essential mk3 doesn't look terribly different from its predecessor. There's still nine knobs and nine faders on the right that provide immediate access to range of parameters in Arturia's softsynths. But there are also control scripts for a number of popular DAWs, including Ableton Live that allow you to do think like mix tracks using the faders or stop and start recordings. 

The one immediately noticeable difference is the much larger screen in the middle of the keyboard. It should make navigating presets in Analog lab and other Arturia instruments much easier. There's also four contextual button below it allowing for more control over your plugins

Arturia also expanded the controls at your disposal, including adding a second bank for the eight pads so, at least with a bit of work, you can take advantage of a full 16 pad drum rack in Live. There's also new scale and chord modes with presets, as well as a hold function and an arpeggiator. The company also upgraded the pedal input to allow for use with an expression pedal instead of just sustain. The software bundle included (which was already pretty great) has been expanded to include Native Instruments The Gentleman, Loopcloud and Melodics, in addition to Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab V and UVI Model D. 

Lastly Arturia has committed to lessening its environmental impact by making the KeyLab Essential mk3 out of at least 40 percent recycled plastic and moving to 100 percent recyclable packaging. And despite all this, the keyboards are actually significantly cheaper than the mk2 models. The 61-key KeyLab Essential mk3 is $269 (down from $320 for the mk2), while the 49-key version of the mk3 is only $219 (down from $269). 

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Microsoft puts AI in the heart of Windows 11 with Windows Copilot

Unlike Meta, Microsoft doesn't need to change its name to prove it's committed to an entirely new tech platform: It's doing so through action. After debuting its AI-infused Bing search engine earlier this year, the company unveiled the Microsoft 365 Copilot for Office apps. And even before those consumer reveals, Microsoft delivered an AI tool for developers in 2021 with GitHub Copilot. Today at its Build developer conference, Microsoft is making the inevitable next step: It's making AI an integral part of Windows 11.

The new Windows Copilot tool lives in the Windows sidebar and, just like Bing's AI chat, you can use it as a super-powered search engine by typing in general questions. But true to its name, it's also deeply integrated with Windows. You can ask it to accomplish tasks within the OS — like turning on the night light mode, or changing your desktop background — without fishing around for specific settings. Windows Copilot can also function as a genuine virtual assistant by summarizing documents, or launching a photo app to accomplish a few edits before sending it off to a group of your coworkers. Cortana would never.

Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President for Surface Computing demonstrates the new Microsoft Surface Studio computer at a live event in the Manhattan borough of New York City, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Microsoft CVP Panos Panay introducing the Surface Studio.
Lucas Jackson / reuters

"I think about Windows and the role of AI as such an opportunity," said Panos Panay, Microsoft Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer, in an interview with Engadget ahead of Tuesday’s launch. "We have hundreds of millions of people [using Windows], bringing the power of AI to Windows 11 gives you the opportunity to not only get more creative and get more productive, but ultimately just let every Windows user become a power user."

Windows Copilot, which will be available to preview in June, also has the potential to reach far more users than the revamped Bing. The company's search engine clearly received plenty of buzz thanks to AI — Microsoft said it hit 100 million daily active users a month after the AI chat feature launched — but according to StatCounter, Bing has also lost market share over the past few months. It hit 7.2 percent in April, down from a recent high of 9.92 percent last October.

That's not entirely surprising, though. Microsoft's battle against Google has always seemed like a hopeless endeavor. The company launched its first attempt, MSN Search, in 1998 soon after Google arrived, and amid Yahoo's dominance as the go-to web portal. MSN Search turned into Live Search, which ultimately evolved into Bing in 2009.

Microsoft has always been a company that's dabbled in search, but it's not a search company. But Windows is another matter entirely. It's a product with a devoted user base, many of whom have decades of experience with the OS. According to Microsoft, there are over 1.4 billion monthly active devices running Windows 10 or 11. (And of course, that doesn't include the PCs running older Windows versions.) Microsoft previously tried to bring Bing's AI capabilities into the Windows taskbar in February, but that ultimately just amounted to a shortcut that launched Bing's AI chat in the Edge browser. Windows Copilot actually weaves AI into the core Windows 11 experience.

Windows Copilot helping with coding

"There's so much depth in this product from the '90s on," said Panay. "Our job is to responsibly, of course, push it forward to users that need both the past and need to get to the future [...] We have so many kinds of users that use Windows in its simplest form, like browsing, Mail, and Office [...] And then we've got the hardcore devs who get right down to the depth of the product. And I think both are so vital to the platform. But now I think every developer can move forward as an AI developer and every user can be a power user on Windows. I think it just makes Windows that much better."

Windows Copilot is currently a text-only tool, but Panay envisions it evolving into something you can interact with on your own terms. It has the potential to be the powerful voice assistant that Cortana, the Siri competitor Microsoft pushed for years, never amounted to. (And to be fair, pretty much every virtual assistant ended up being a disappointment. Siri remains confounding and inaccurate, while Google's Assistant is mainly useful for preemptively delivering information, rather than dealing with voice commands.)

Windows Copilot choosing music in Spotify

The simple, text-based approach to AI also makes sense for Microsoft. For many users, Windows Copilot will be the first time they've interacted with any sort of generative AI product. Better to let general users warm up with a few text strings before overwhelming people with voice commands. And hopefully by the time Microsoft adds voice support, it'll be closer to the Star Trek computer than the frustrating assistants of yore. (I'm dreaming of the day when I can shout at my computer to look up information as I'm writing feverishly on deadline, or ask it to transcribe and summarize a meeting.)

Windows Copilot, just like Bing Chat, will also support the same third-party plugins that OpenAI's ChaptGPT uses. That means any developer will be able to easily connect their apps to AI, an essential move to make these products more useful. Every software platform needs a thriving third-party ecosystem to survive — just think of what iOS or Android would be like if you were stuck using only Apple or Google's apps.

"AI is going to be the single largest driver of innovation for Windows in the years to come," said Panay. "It's going to change the way you work, change your interaction models to make it easier. It's going to understand so much about what you need."

Windows Copilot sending an edited images to a Teams group

Panay stressed that Microsoft is also focused on making your AI interactions secure and private. Windows Copilot could end up juggling some sensitive information if you start asking questions about specific health questions, for example. A potentially bigger concern is misinformation: Windows Copilot and Bing Chat can answer your questions confidently, but it may not always be accurate. And it's a bigger problem than standard web searches since it's unclear where AI chatbots are pulling information from.

"We have to approach AI with innovation but also optimism," Panay said when I asked about how Microsoft is planning to deal with AI misinformation. "To your point, we have to prioritize both people’s safety and privacy. Also, at the end of the day, if you do it in a frame of humility, where we're always learning, this is going to be vital to your point."

It's clear that Microsoft still has plenty to learn from Windows Copilot. The preview period, which kicks off next month, is a chance for the company to see how it's used in the wild, and to make adjustments before it's officially released. Panay says that the Bing team is already working to make sure its results come from grounded references, and that they're also holding to Microsoft's responsible AI standards.

Microsoft CVP Shilpa Ranganathan
Microsoft CVP Shilpa Ranganathan

According to Shilpa Ranganathan, a Microsoft Corporate Vice President leading the Windows team, the company has been talking a lot about how Copilot results are displayed, as well as communicating the uncertainty of some answers to customers. “We're going to build it into the experience as a learning experience for us as well […] I don't want to take a path that allows us to lose trust with customers,” she said. “We believe that's most important. I'd rather say, hey, we're not 100 percent sure. Help us make this better or if this didn't help you, I would like feedback now so that we never show this to another customer again.”

Panay hopes to get to a point where "as a product maker, I have the confidence that what we're handing to our customers is exactly what they need when we launch into the full availability [of Windows Copilot]." He added, "It's about humility. If you give it time and the right innovation, then we can get to that point of creating the guardrails needed to keep it safe and remove the misinformation."

Given the state of the web today, where less reputable websites employ a variety of SEO tricks to rank higher in search results, it’s unclear if we’ll ever be truly rid of AI misinformation. The next content war will be entirely focused on websites vying for placement within AI search results. The problem for users is that it’ll be harder to tell if bad information is coming from a seemingly reputable source, rather than an obviously scammy website filled with junk content.

Windows Copilot has the potential to fundamentally reshape the way we use Windows. But hopefully, it won’t erode user trust in the process.

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