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Apple updates almost all its operating systems

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July 1, 2014

Apple said late yesterday that it shipped new versions of most of its operating systems, its web browser and Apple TV firmware, with each update consisting of a minor release aimed at fixing bugs and closing some security holes.

For instance, the latest release of OS X Mavericks version 10.9.4, addresses a total of no less than nineteen security vulnerabilities in a variety of OS subsystems, ranging from graphics and Thunderbolt drivers to the Dock.

The update is also aimed at speeding up waking time from sleep, and to fix one issue where Macs wouldn't connect to known Wi-Fi networks, and another where the Apple logo didn't appear onscreen properly during boot-up.

The update also brings the Safari web browser to version 7.0.5, which is also available as a standalone update – as is an update to Safari 6.1.5.

Each of those updates fix 12 security vulnerabilities in the WebKit rendering engine, including multiple memory-corruption issues that could potentially allow a malicious website to crash the browser or execute arbitrary code.

Many of these security issues already have been fixed in the upstream WebKit source tree, but had yet to make their way into Safari.

The last Safari update, version 7.0.4, shipped in late May and fixed no less than twenty-two WebKit security vulnerabilities.

On the bright side, iOS 7.1.2 fixes a whole set of security vulnerabilities, including a whopping thirty issues in the mobile version of WebKit.

Mail, Safari, Siri and the OS kernel also get the patch treatment, among other packages.

Apple says that it has also been working at plugging holes in its Apple TV platform. To be sure, Apple TV version 6.2, which can run on the second-generation Apple TVs or later, includes fixes for thirty-five issues, many of them being the same WebKit security bugs that are addressed by the Safari and iOS updates.

All of the aforementioned bug fixes are available via Apple's usual upgrade channels.

In other operating system news

Apple's new iOS 8 operating system is due to reach the masses sometime this fall, and features a whole slew of new upgrades, but perhaps two of the most interesting items announced at the company's developers conference on Monday are APIs that involve monitoring your vital health signs and controlling your home.

The bodily-functions initiative is enabled by new HealthKit APIs and a corresponding iOS app appropriately called Health.

As Apple senior vice president for software engineering Craig Federighi explained in his keynote presentation, there's no shortage of emerging "Internet of Things" devices that measure various and sundry aspects of your physical state and activities, from pedometers to heart-rate monitors to bathroom scales, and that keep an eye on chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

"But up to now," Federighi said, "the information gathered by those applications lives in silos – you can't get a single comprehensive picture of your health situation, no matter how hard you try."

To be sure, HealthKit aims to end that issue by creating a single repository to which mobile apps can contribute their data, and which either the Health app will then display, or which third-party apps can draw upon.

About those third-party apps, Federighi said that HealthKit is designed to protect your privacy from prying eyes – or prying apps, for that matter.

"You have total control over which applications have access to which part of your healthcare information," he promised.

Apple is also working with the Mayo Clinic – "innovators in healthcare," as Federighi called them – to incorporate HealthKit into doctor-patient relationships.

The Mayo Clinic is developing an app that contains a patient's personalized healthcare parameters so that, for example, if the user checks his or her blood pressure and it's out of the doctor-determined bounds, the app will contact the hospital and notify the patient's doctor so that the doctor can get in touch with the patient for timely personal care.

But Federighi did not mention if notifying a patient's insurance company is going to be part of the deal.

Just as all the healthcare "Internet of Things" currently don't have an API through which they can communicate, the same is true of such emerging devices as "smart" lights, garage door openers, thermostats, door locks, security cameras, etc.

Many of these devices have their own apps, their own protocols, and their own security mechanisms.

"We thought we could bring some rationality to this segment," said Federighi. Working with such home-automation companies as iHome, Schlage, Honeywell, Haier and others, Apple came up with HomeKit APIs, "with a common network protocol that has secured pairing to ensure that only your iPhone can open your garage door or unlock your door."

The HomeKit system can control individual devices, but it also enables you to create what Federighi called "scenes" – grouped actions that can accomplish a set of commands with just one prompt.

"With Siri integration," he said, "you can say something like 'Get ready for bed', and be assured that your garage door is closed, your door is locked, the thermostat is lowered, and your lights are dimmed or turned off completely."

Although Federighi used an iPhone as his example device when discussing both HealthKit and HomeKit, we certainly wouldn't be surprised if the ever-elusive iWatch were to interact with those two APIs soon, if it makes its appearance someday that is.

Source: Apple.

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