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Apple bars price references on new titles appearing in the App Store

Why it matters to you

Many apps are marketed with misleading buzzwords in the title, or involve the free download of apps that include in-app purchases.

Apple has long discouraged developers from referencing price in the titles of their apps on the App Store. Of course, this didn’t stop everyone from doing it. But now it appears the company has begun forcing software makers to change their habits. According to VentureBeat, Apple’s marketplace now prevents the publishing of any app with “free” in the title, as well as the inclusion of other price references.

Developers are now met with an error message if they attempt to name their product in such a way, asking them to “please remove any references to [the] app’s price” from its name, “including any references to [the] app being free or discounted.”

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According to the report, only new apps going up on the store or updates to existing apps are prohibited from using those buzzwords — so you’ll still be seeing many apps, especially older ones, with “free” in the title for quite some time.

Annoying as it may be to have to browse through a barrage of seemingly endless, similarly titled apps with “FREE” listed in all caps, it is an easy way for developers to publicize that information. It also makes it impossible to read the app’s name or become aware of its existence without also knowing that it doesn’t cost you anything, and you can download it right away. These are crucial benefits to users on the App Store, where everyone’s vying for a way to stand out.

It was also a way to sidestep Apple’s redesign of the download button to say the much less-enticing “get” instead of “free.” The change was instigated several years ago in response to pressure from European lawmakers, who alleged that the language was misleading users into downloading apps that were loaded with in-app purchases, and was fooling children in particular.

Going forward, references to price won’t only be forbidden in names, but also icons, screenshots, and previews, according to Apple. The company is directing all developers who’d like to advertise discounts to simply mention it in the app’s description.

Why Apple is cracking down on ‘free’ apps

Apple has new changes for developers.
Apple has new changes for developers.

Image: B. Tongo/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Apple is making more moves to clean up its App Store. 

After cracking down on outdated apps, the company is now placing restrictions on how developers describe their apps. Apple is now rejecting updated and new app submissions that have the word “free” in the name, VentureBeat reports.

“Your app’s name, icons, screenshots, or previews to be displayed on the App Store include references to your app’s price,” Apple reportedly pointed out.  

“Please remove any references to your app’s price from your app’s name, including any references to your app being free or discounted.”

Apple has yet to comment on the change other than to confirm its existence but the policy change is yet another sign Cupertino is looking to clean up its App Store.

The company is also cracking down on outdated apps that haven’t been optimized for newer iPhones and iPads, which could include as many as 200,000 apps. That’s in addition to the 47,000 apps Apple removed earlier this year

Displaying social media network apps on the screen of an iPhone 6 in Berlin on 21 Ocotber 2015. Photo by: Robert Schlesinger/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Image: Robert Schlesinger/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

While the change in how developers describe their apps in the App Store seems like a more subtle shift, it fits with the company’s ongoing efforts to scrub old and low-quality apps out of its store. Many developers use “free” in their app names to try and game the store’s search algorithms and lure new users.

Doing so may help an app appear higher in some search results but few high-quality apps actually use the word “free” in their name (with the possible exception of apps that have both a free and paid app). Apple could now be trying to crack down on apps with spammy-sounding names to improve the overall quality of its App Store,

Or, the company could simply be trying to reduce confusion. As Apple notes in its developer guidelines, referencing a price in an app name could be confusing to people in other countries where the price may be different.

Whatever the case, we’re likely hear more in at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference later this year.

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Ghost in the Shell review: a solid film built on a broken foundation

Of all the ideas the new Ghost in the Shell offers up, one emerges as its thesis. Memory, it posits, doesn’t define our humanity. Instead, our actions define us. As the lines between human and machine are blurred, we’re afforded the radical opportunity to create new selves that are shaped by the past, without clinging to it. That notion aligns well with the film itself, and how it was made. As part of a far larger cyberpunk tradition, it draws on old ideas and tries to forge a new path forward. And through its treatment of its franchise’s history, the movie succeeds in some ways — and crucially fails in others.

As a live-action adaptation of a cherished anime masterpiece, Ghost in the Shell is a technically solid, though lesser, homage to the film and the sundry TV series that inspired it. It wrestles ably with questions about posthumanity and individuality in a visually sumptuous origin story that leaves plenty of room for follow-up. And maybe that would be enough, if it weren’t for the controversy at the heart of the film. Where 1995’s Ghost in the Shell skirted the problem of race almost entirely, the update not only brings it to the surface, but makes it into a monster. The approach exposes the cracks in the aging premises that informed the first film, and possibly even the entire cyberpunk genre.

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Major spoilers ahead.

Ghost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman), follows Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson), a cyborg operative who heads the counter-terrorism task force Section 9 in an unnamed futuristic city in East Asia. Led by section chief Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), she and fellow operatives Batou (Pilou Asbæk), Togusa (Chin Han), and others investigate hackers and cyber-criminals in a future where terrorism can mean planting false memories into citizens’ digitally enhanced brains, or even turning them into puppets. Their work leads them to a hacker known only as Kuze (Michael Pitt), who has a vendetta against Hanka Robotics, the powerful robotics company and government contractor that created Mira’s body. But Kuze takes a special interest in Mira, and he drags her deep into a conspiracy that implicates the people closest to her.

It’s clear from the outset that Sanders and company did their Ghost In The Shell homework. They demonstrate a real appreciation for Masamune Shirow’s original manga and the adaptations and spinoffs that followed it. Though Ghost’s story is framed around the narrative established in Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 classic anime film, story elements and setpieces from Shirow’s manga, the 2004 sequel feature Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series, and other cyberpunk classics are peppered liberally throughout, making the film feel fresh, yet familiar.

VFX outfit MPC and special-effects company Weta Workshop have made Ghost in the Shell one of the year’s most visually beautiful films. One early scene borrowed directly from Oshii shows the birth of Mira’s cybernetic body, with skin layered over synthetic muscle and bone in a way that’s both captivating and unsettling. Later, Mira bursts into a room in a cloud of pixels and glass to dispatch the terrorists and robots hacking into a Hanka executive’s mind. The scene draws from Ghost in the Shell and Stand Alone Complex, with the fight choreography and camera work pulled right out of The Matrix. Sanders’ movie sometimes comes across as slavish to his source material, but it’s gorgeous in ways that make it stand apart from the craftsmanship in today’s superhero movies.

  Paramount Pictures

The film does tend to put style before substance. Action is the film’s main concern, though as a Ghost in the Shell adaptation, it does spend some time meditating on how to locate the soul when the biological merges with the technological. That thread centers on the Major and her relationship with her past. Hanka’s Dr. Ouélet (Juliette Binoche) claims Mira and her parents was in a terrorist attack, and left so close to death, she needed a full robotic body. But Mira has no memory of that event, and she’s haunted by memory “glitches” tied to Kuze. That laser focus on Mira and her need to better understand herself limits the film’s scope, where the original, by grappling with the existential effects of computerization on humanity, felt vast. That’s by design; in a recent interview with CNET, Sanders suggested that the original film’s “stillness and quietness” wouldn’t land with today’s audiences. (Fans and critics might disagree.) The result is a sci-fi thriller that touches on concepts like how thinking machines must consent to having their minds opened like hard drives. But those concepts aren’t allowed to reach past the point where they directly concern the Major’s experience.

Johansson is only serviceable as Mira, though. While she comes alive in the latter half of the film as the plot kicks into high gear, she never fully conveys the complex mix of frustration, verve, and wry wisdom that voice actress Atsuko Tanaka has delivered as the animated version of the character since 1995. Johansson certainly has the physical authority of a powerful killing machine — she’s been doing action movies since 2005’s The Island — but she’s the Major by way of Black Widow and the title character in Lucy. More often than not, she’s a cipher whose anxiety about her past simmers beneath the surface. Arguably, that’s the point. Asbæk and Binoche more readily offer up human emotions like dread, affection, and gruff concern in their respective roles, and they serve as foils for Mira as she struggles to uncover her humanity. But the movie sets out to show Mira’s transformation into a being with a complicated and resonant inner life, and Johansson’s mostly flat performance never sells that arc.

That idea of transformation and its relationship with lived and cultural memory ultimately breaks the movie. It runs deeper than casting and representation. Ghost does go to some lengths to turn its setting into a culturally diverse metropolis inhabited by technologically enhanced bodies. The principal cast is predominantly white, but actors of color are afforded some opportunities to shine. (Zatoichi star Kitano brings an almost effortless presence to every scene he’s in.) However, the larger issue is how the film presents the shift from human to posthuman. By the film’s climax, we learn that Hanka Robotics abducted a young Japanese woman named Motoko Kusanagi, and its her brain that was linked to a synthetic body to create the human-machine hybrid Mira is now.

That narrative turn, though of a piece with the entire “more than human” idea, is horrific for a few reasons. First, the name “Motoko Kusanagi” carries weight with fans of the franchise. In the original, Motoko simply is the Major. Here, Motoko is a Japanese woman destroyed to allow the Major to exist. Seeing the film replace that character with “Mira Killian” is deeply discomfiting. Second, and most importantly, there’s just no escaping the terrible optics of planting a Japanese person in a white body. Ghost in the Shell, as a product of late-20th-century thought about cyborg identities, trafficked in ideas about a self that can be divorced from race and gender in favor of a higher form of consciousness. The dream of the ‘90s was a digital utopia that left such categorizations and hierarchies behind. The problem is that, nearly 30 years after Masamune Shirow put pen to paper, we’re nowhere near that reality. Despite the long, sad history of self-erasure in Japan that allowed anime to obfuscate ethnic identity, race is a real, global, and unavoidable problem. Johansson can’t help but be caught up in the Ghost franchise’s racial history. She says she’s playing a raceless cyborg, but she is an unmistakably white actress working in an industry that privileges white stories.

  Paramount Pictures

That problem cuts to the core of Ghost in the Shell’s vision of humanity’s future, where “absence of race” aligns uncomfortably with whiteness. And since we can’t yet untangle ourselves from that fundamental problem, it means that it’s not enough to say that Scarlett Johansson was miscast. We need to question whether an acceptable live-action adaptation of this property could exist in any form without addressing that issue.

In Ghost in the Shell’s closing moment, the Major tells the audience: “We cling to our memories as if they define us. But it’s what we do that defines us.” I’ve struggled with that line ever since I left the theater, because I don’t agree. If our memories, like our history, don’t matter, I could simply say that this is a gorgeous little film with a decent story and fair acting. I’d recommend it to friends who’ve loved the franchise for years, though I’d give caveats to temper their expectations. And I’d wonder where an inevitable sequel could go. But the truth is that we live in a world where Ghost in the Shell collides with questions about race and cultural identity, but fails to adequately answer them or even treat them as realities. The inequalities it reifies expose the limits of the posthuman, post-racial philosophy that helped bring the entire series about.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s instructive that Ghost in the Shell is a solid film made on a broken foundation. Maybe this is the movie that needed to be made so the backlash would help Hollywood question the kinds of cross-cultural adaptations it can make.

Here’s what we learned from Travis Kalanick’s hidden 2007 Twitter account

Showing off those skillz.
Showing off those skillz.

Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Tbones fancies himself a dancer.

Oh, and his opinions about women have long been a bit retrograde. 

This, and so much more, can be gleaned from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s old Twitter account. The handle, @konatbone, is protected. But as with so many things on the internet, that doesn’t mean you can’t see it — you just have to know where to look. 

And look we did. 

The embattled CEO officially moved on from @konatbone to his current handle, @travisk, in late 2010. The original account, which looks to have been created in 2007, was protected around that time as well. This meant that only approved followers could see its content after that point. 

Thankfully for all of us, there’s a little thing called The Internet Archive — which in all its glory created The Way Back Machine to preserve the web in digital amber. The service works by crawling the internet and taking what are essentially snapshots of websites at any given time. The pages are then available to search. 

Konatbones’ since-deleted tweets are some of those pages. What did we find out? Well, for starters, he’s not too enlightened when it comes to the fairer sex.

From 2010.

From 2010.

Image: Twitter

A 2009 gem.

A 2009 gem.

Image: twitter

We also learned that he really, really liked to get down on the dance floor and did his then seven followers the favor of narrating one wild night in 2007. Start from the bottom and read up for the full play-by-play. 

Raising the roof.

Raising the roof.

Image: twitter

“Tbones skollin those mutha fuckas on the danc e floor yo,” he explained. 

Mashable reached out to Uber to determine how the growing up CEO’s thinking has evolved over the years, and while we have not heard back as of press time, we have a feeling that a 2008 @konatbone tweet probably sums up it up the best.

“@ev selfish feature request: I would love separate work and friends accounts attached to one twitter handle..”

Two accounts. Yup.

Two accounts. Yup.

Image: twitter

Kalanick’s current Twitter handle is nowhere near as exciting as @konatbone, but we’re OK with that. Better that he focus his attention elsewhere, like making sure his workplace isn’t hostile to former employees like Susan Fowler

Or if not that, then maybe spend some time updating his old WordPress blog

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Here’s what the Samsung Galaxy S8 will cost you in Australia

Australian prices for Samsung's Galaxy S8 are here.
Australian prices for Samsung’s Galaxy S8 are here.

Image: lili sams/mashable

So perhaps you’ve already been entranced by the bevelled edges of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and marvelled at its inclusion of a headphone jack — among other things.

The phone’s release is a big test for Samsung, marking its first phone release since the infamous Note 7 explosion which ended in the line’s demise.

In Australia, the Galaxy S8 with a 5.8-inch screen has an outright price of $1,199, while the Galaxy S8+ with its 6.2-inch screen will cost $1,349. 

Australians will be able to buy the phone in three colours: Midnight Black, Orchid Grey and Maple Gold.

Both models come with 64GB of onboard storage, with a microSD slot. For comparison, an iPhone 7 with the same amount of storage will cost you $1,229, where as the 7 Plus equivalent is $1,419.

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will go on sale in the country on Apr. 28, and are available on plans from Telstra, Optus, Virgin and Vodafone. But if you’re one for anticipation, pre-orders open on Mar. 31, closing on Apr. 27.

Early pre-orders come with a benefit too: Samsung said customers who pre-order in the first few days of the period could receive their bundle as soon as Apr. 21.

But wait, there’s more! If you pre-order either of the phones from Samsung, or one of its telco or retail partners, it’ll come with a complimentary Gear VR with Controller and a $50 Oculus content voucher. 

Also on sale from Apr. 28 is Samsung’s DeX dock, which for $199 will convert your phone into a desktop computer. On sale too is the Gear VR with Controller for $199, as well as the Gear 360 camera, priced at $399.

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