Apple has given the Oval Office a run for its money in the past few weeks – we’ve had an unprecedented number of leaks ahead of the firm’s annual product launch.
So, barring any surprises – a Steve Jobs-esque “one more thing” – we have a pretty good idea of what to expect when Tim Cook heads out on stage on Wednesday. He’ll do it as the chief executive of the first US company to reach a value of $1tn (£768bn). To keep it that way, Apple will be building on past successes rather than introducing anything dramatically new.
But, of course, Apple’s strength is in ignoring such emerging technologies until they feel the time is right to build it into their products. As far as they see it, there’s no point in technology for technology’s sake – a philosophy that has been validated year after year.
"Right now the iPhone franchise is so strong that it feels like it's almost untouchable," says Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight.
"Even at a time when rivals such as Samsung are having to push the envelope on developing new technology such as folding screens."
Last year, it was the iPhone’s 10-year anniversary, and fans were expecting a reinvention of the device. What they got was the iPhone X – Ten – that, while not revolutionising the range, did at least push it into something of a new design phase.
It also brought the iPhone into a new price bracket: $999.
Anticipation is not nearly as high this time around. This is what is referred to as an “S” year, when Apple doesn’t make any major changes to its device, save for some internal improvements – and tacks an “S” to the device name to make it clear.
So, in keeping with that theme, we’re expecting an iPhone XS. As well as that, leaks suggest another, larger version – one which may make $999 the “cheaper” option of the two. That bigger version might be called the XS Max, a name which to me sounds more like a muscle-building powder supplement, but hey - I’m not a marketer.
Apple’s stock price went up dramatically when the company revealed the average selling price of an iPhone was going up. Some had been concerned - Apple was very much testing the water with its iPhone X’s $999 price point last year, its most expensive phone ever. Twelve months on, the answer to “will people spend that much on an iPhone?” is, according to sales figures, an emphatic “yes”. With the XS Max we’ll see how far Apple can push it.
Beyond the XS and XS Max, completing the set in 2018 may be a budget version of the iPhone X. If so, that would mean the home button, the circular button that made the iPhone instantly recognisable, will be no more.
While the iPhone remains Apple’s bread and butter, accounting for the vast amount of the firm’s profits, a growing part of its business comes from other areas, such as the Apple Watch. The device hasn’t seen the blockbuster sales some might have expected since its launch in 2015 but it’s comfortably the biggest-selling smartwatch on the market.
Leaks suggest we may see a new Apple Watch with a slightly bigger screen and more sophisticated heart-monitoring capabilities. Three years since the original, I predict the Apple Watch being a big seller this Christmas – early adopters are primed to upgrade, and those who held back might now be tempted.
Apple Watch sales are good for Apple’s wider business – it only works with the iPhone, naturally.
A hard border on the island of Ireland can be avoided by using "established" technology and "modifying" existing arrangements, Brexiteer Tory MPs say.
The European Research Group said the issue had been allowed to "frame" the talks but need not block a trade deal.
They call for "effective co-operation" between Belfast and Dublin to address smuggling concerns and extra customs forms to be included in VAT returns.
The EU has insisted on a "backstop" to ensure the single market is protected.
Both the UK and the EU want to avoid a return to physical checks at the Northern Ireland border, but have yet to agree how this can be achieved.
The BBC's assistant political editor Norman Smith said the ERG's answer to the problem of the Irish border seemed to be that "there isn't really a problem".
He said the group was citing the example of the "invisible border" between Norway and Sweden as a precedent for how post-Brexit arrangements might work.
Speaking at the launch of the ERG's report in London, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Patterson said he and other MPs were trying to "help the European Union and the UK government" by "giving an answer" to a problem which has risked derailing the Brexit process.
What will become of the Irish border when the UK leaves the European Union?
He insisted there was "absolutely nothing new" in what the group was proposing because the solutions already exist to deliver "an ordered border".
He said there was already a tax, VAT, excise and currency border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which was maintained by "administrative and technical tools".
This should continue after Brexit, he said, supplemented by a range of mechanisms to ensure customs checks are conducted away from the border, such as trusted trader schemes.
"We absolutely believe there is no need for new physical infrastructure at the border and it can be handled by current means," he said.
Two former Northern Ireland secretaries were among Tory MPs endorsing the proposals
The report acknowledges a range of new checks will be needed on goods passing across the 310 mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit, including extra customs declarations and declarations of origin as well as sanitary, phytosanitary and product compliance procedures.
Among the proposals put forward in the document to deal with these are:
Extra customs declarations should be incorporated into existing system of VAT returns
Simplified customs procedures for the majority of cross-border trade
Trusted trader-type schemes for large companies
Equivalence of UK and EU regulations for agricultural produce
Declaring the island of Ireland a Common Biosecurity Zone
The report concluded: "The proposals can be realised within the existing legal and operational frameworks of the UK and EU, based on the mutual trust on which regular trade depends.
"They do nothing to alter the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and do not violate the principle of consent of the enshrined in the Belfast Agreement."
"This particular skimmer is very much attuned to how British Airway's payment page is set up, which tells us that the attackers carefully considered how to target this site instead of blindly injecting the regular Magecart skimmer," the researcher wrote in a report on the findings.
"The infrastructure used in this attack was set up with British Airways in mind and purposely targeted scripts that would blend in with normal payment processing to avoid detection."
Hacks like this make use of an increasingly common phenomenon, in which large websites embed multiple pieces of code from other sources or third-party suppliers.
Such code may be needed to do specific jobs, such as authorise a payment or present ads to the user. But malicious code can be slipped in instead - this is known as a supply chain attack.
In BA's case, hackers stole names, email addresses and credit card details - including the long number, expiry date and the three-digit CVV security code.
"As this is a criminal investigation, we are unable to comment on speculation," said BA in a statement.
A spokesman for the UK's National Crime Agency said it was aware of the RiskIQ report but would not be commenting at this time.
RiskIQ said the malicious script consisted of just 22 lines of code. It worked by grabbing data from BA's online payment form and then sending it to the hackers' server once a customer hit the "submit" button.
The cyber-security firm added that the attackers had apparently been able to gather data from mobile app users as well because the same script was found loaded into the app on a page describing government taxes and carrier charges.
"The page [in the app] is built with the same... components as the real website, meaning design and functionality-wise, it's a total match," the RiskIQ report noted.
British Airways' chairman and CEO says affected customers will be 100% compensated
RiskIQ recommended that BA customers affected by the breach get a new debit or credit card from their bank.
The firm pointed out that whoever was behind the attack had apparently decided to target specific brands and that more breaches of a similar nature were likely.
"There is a very clear emerging risk where the weakest link in payment processes is being actively targeted," cyber-security expert Kevin Beaumont told the BBC.
"And that weakest link in the chain is often by placing older systems or third-party code into the payment chain."
Andrew Dwyer, a cyber-security researcher at the University of Oxford added that the attackers appeared to have gone to "extraordinary lengths" to tailor their code to the BA site.
According to RiskIQ, they also acquired a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate - which suggests to web browsers, not always accurately, that a web page is safe to use.
If this was indeed how the attack worked, he added, there are ways of preventing third-party code taking data from sensitive web pages.
"BA should have been able to see this," he told the BBC.
A turbine that can capture wind from any direction has won the UK's 2018 James Dyson Award.
The O-Wind Turbine aims to capture inner-city wind and turn it into electricity in cities struggling to produce enough renewable energy for increasing populations.
The portable, low-cost device can be attached to the sides of buildings.
The two inventors said they hoped the energy produced could be plugged into the home or the electricity grid.
Wind power currently produces 4% of the world's electricity. But wind farms can only capture "horizontal" wind and tend to be located in rural areas because of this.
In cities, where wind is more multi-directional because of large buildings and other obstructions, such systems are complex to use.
The inventors, Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani from Lancaster University, set out to solve the problem.
"If we could find a solution that caters for the half of the world's population who live in cities, we could give these people an opportunity to generate their own energy and contribute to the environment," explained Mr Noorani.
Mr Orellana took his inspiration from Nasa's Tumbleweed Mars rover, which was designed to roll across the planet's surface to measure atmospheric conditions but which ultimately failed because it could not cope with the challenging conditions.
He had his eureka moment when he realised that "wind energy technology currently can only capture horizontal wind".
The O-Wind turbine is a 25cm spherical device which sits on a fixed axis. The geometric structure of its vents means that it spins when wind hits it from any direction.
This wind energy turns the device which triggers a generator, which, in turn, converts the wind energy into electricity.
The next stage of its development will focus on finding ways to build it so it will be cheap enough for anyone to buy.
"Current wind turbines are expensive to set up, meaning they are often only bought and owned by private companies," said Mr Orellana.
"Using low-cost and sustainable materials like recycled plastic we hope to produce the O-Wind Turbine at a low cost, allowing it to be sold at a price accessible to everyone."
The annual UK James Dyson Award rewards young engineers with innovative projects, offering £2,000 to kickstart their product development.
From there, the team can progress to the international stage of the competition where they can compete for a £30,000 prize.
Sir Kenneth Grange, the chairman of judges said: "I was captivated by the simplicity of the design, relative to the enormous ambition of competing in the renewable energy sector.
"Developing ways to embed sustainability into society is an important challenge which will puzzle engineers for centuries, and these innovators show promise as early pioneers."
The biggest threat to jobs might not be physical robots, but intelligent software agents that can understand our questions and speak to us, integrating seamlessly with all the other programs we use at home and at work. And call centres are particularly at risk.
"All calls to 640 M&S stores and contact centres now handled via Twilio-powered technology," boasted the California-based tech company operating the new system.
M&S is now using Twilio's speech recognition software and Google's Dialogflow artificial intelligence (AI) tool to transcribe customers' verbal requests and understand their intent. Then the call is routed to the appropriate department or shop.
The system could handle about 12 million queries a year, Twilio says.
But now the shift actually seems to be happening, says Brian Manusama, an analyst at market research firm Gartner.
"The number one use case for applying AI is in this call centre and customer service space," he explains.
"At the end of 2017 about 70% of all use cases in AI were related to customer service and call centres."
Several million people are employed in call centre roles in the US and UK and hundreds of thousands more rely on such work in countries like India and the Philippines. Unless these people quickly learn new skills, they could soon be out of work.
Lauren Hayes was the human model for IPsoft's smart chatbot Amelia
"Countries like India may have a huge problem with increasing unemployment," says Mr Manusama.
But chief executive of IPsoft, Chetan Dube, told me he was bullish about the prospect when discussing his company's widely used digital assistant Amelia - billed as "the most human AI". It can understand natural language - not just set commands - and can discern meaning from the context of a conversation.
"Has that not always been the case?" he asks. "Jobs have always been displaced by technology."
Currently, companies, such as large US insurer Allstate, use Amelia to interact with human call centre workers, not replace them. It provides the information staff need to answer phone-based customer queries, reducing call durations from 4.6 to 4.2 minutes on average. That might not sound much, but those saved seconds add up across millions of calls in an industry where time is money.
This role of AI as helper rather than replacement is also being promoted by Observe.AI, a start-up that recently raised $8m (£6.2m) to develop its emotion analysis system.
Swapnil Jain wants his firm's software to help, not replace, humans.
It listens to incoming customer calls, interprets the emotional content - is the customer irate about something going wrong? - and automatically brings up appropriate response information on the call centre worker's computer screen.
"Our mission, broadly, is to augment the [human] agent, not necessarily get rid of the agent," explains co-founder Swapnil Jain.
"As soon as the customer says they want to cancel a credit card, the technology understands that, goes ahead and gets the instructions for the agent on how to cancel a credit."
His company is already working with call centre firms in the Philippines.
But it seems clear that AI will take over most human call centre operations in time. Observe.AI's technology may be able to automate some customer queries entirely, Mr Jain admits.
"We are still trying to figure out where we want to go," he says.
"Jobs have always been displaced by technology," says IPsoft's Chetan Dube
IPsoft's Amelia can already handle live phone calls and even make outbound calls. For example, Spanish bank BBVA and Nordic bank SEB both allow customers to speak to Amelia directly.
But Mr Dube thinks it will be able to do much more.
"I want to be able to have [Amelia] process my mortgage," he says. "Can she do a risk analysis for me, can she process my credit card consolidation request?"
He adds that what makes Amelia different is the system's combined approach of speech recognition and logic-based interpretation of queries. In other words, Amelia has a built-in model of things that a customer or staff member might ask about and how those things relate to one another. That helps her to answer intelligently.
Were you to ask about a friend who has a good credit card deal, for instance, a bank's deployment of Amelia would in theory understand that you are looking for a specific deal previously offered to another customer, which she could then look up.
He even envisages it becoming an investment adviser, "a personal banker in your pocket who is going to give you financial wisdom".
We may be some way from that yet. Gartner's Brian Manusama believes it will be some time before virtual customer service agents are sophisticated enough to take on complex customer queries, let alone provide detailed advice about negotiating risk.
So what's driving this charge of the chatbots? Cost. Humans are expensive; software is cheaper. The wider roll-out of such technology is just a matter of time, says Mr Manusama.
"We're tracking more than 700 companies trying to seize the opportunity of delivering AI capabilities," he says.
"Every day new firms are coming in to take advantage of all of this."
The 100 displaced M&S staff have been found new roles. Will the millions of other call centre workers around the world be so lucky?
The account mimics Buffett's wholesome folksy style - making it feel like the man himself is broadcasting life tips in kindly tones, peppering his advice with modern-day concerns about anxiety and fast-paced lifestyles.
"Saying good words to people will never go out of style," it suggests, or: "In a given day, how many hours are you happy and stress-free? Measure that."
Can the viral success of the fake account be attributed to our desperation for positive content in these dark times? Or maybe we're hoping to walk in the footsteps of one of the world's more successful investors.
The BBC has contacted @WarrenBuffet99 to find out more behind the account but it has not responded to queries.
Meanwhile if you're mourning the loss of a morning pick-me-up, fear not, you can turn to some bona fide Warren Buffett words of wisdom.
The researchers reached their conclusions from studying 67 studies examining the accuracy of the Fitbit fitness tracker, the market leader.
"Consistent evidence indicated that Fitbit devices were likely to meet acceptable accuracy for step count approximately half the time, with a tendency to underestimate steps in controlled testing and overestimate steps in free-living settings," the authors concluded.
There are seemingly a limited number of situations where the device is likely to provide accurate measurement
They continued: "Consistent evidence indicated that Fitbit devices were unlikely to provide accurate measures for energy expenditure in any testing condition.
"Evidence from a few studies also suggested that, compared with research-grade accelerometers, Fitbit devices may provide similar measures for time in bed and time sleeping, while likely markedly overestimating time spent in higher-intensity activities and underestimating distance during faster-paced ambulation."
The study concluded: "...there are seemingly a limited number of situations where the device is likely to provide accurate measurement."
However, research tends to indicate that the inaccuracies are common to all fitness trackers, not just Fitbit.
In January last year, Sandra O'Connell, Gearóid Ólaighin and Leo Quinlan at the University of Galway analysed five physical fitness monitors and found that all of them tended to over-estimate the number of steps taken to a greater or lesser extent.
In its experiment, "participants wore five activity monitors simultaneously for a variety of prescribed activities including deskwork, taking an elevator, taking a bus journey, automobile driving, washing and drying dishes; functional reaching task; indoor cycling; outdoor cycling; and indoor rowing".
It tested the ActivPAL micro, the NL-2000 pedometer, the Withings Smart Activity Monitor Tracker (the Pulse O2), Fitbit One and the Jawbone UP.
All activity monitors registered a significant number of false positive steps per minute during one or more of the activities, the study concluded.
The Withings device, it advised, registered the fewest false positives and performed best overall, but "all monitors tested recorded steps when no steps actually took place (false positives) to a greater or lesser extent depending on the activity being performed".
The growing body of research will confirm widespread suspicions that fitness trackers are often inaccurate.
But they had been thwarted when its security staff had won control of six net domains mimicking their websites.
Microsoft said the Fancy Bear hacking group had been behind the attacks.
"We're concerned that these and other attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections," Microsoft said in its blog detailing its work.
The thwarted attack was likely the start of a "spear phishing" campaign, said Microsoft. This would involve tricking people into visiting the mimicked domains allowing the Fancy Bear group to see and steal login information that people use.
As well as the two think-tanks, the domains seized were associated with several Senate offices and services. One domain sought to mimic Microsoft's Office 365 online service.
Russia has denied Microsoft's allegations that it targeted the right-wing think-tanks. A Russian diplomatic source told the Interfax news agency that Microsoft was acting like a "prosecutor" rather than a private company.
"Microsoft is playing political games," the unnamed source told the agency. "The (mid-term U.S.) elections have not happened yet, but there are already allegations."
The New York Times suggested that the two think tanks were targeted because they were former supporters of President Trump but were now foes who had called for more sanctions to be imposed on Russia.
The International Republican Institute's directors include Senator John McCain and General HR McMaster who was replaced earlier this year as the White House national security adviser.
IRI president Daniel Twining told the Times that the attacks were consistent with the "campaign of meddling" the Kremlin is known to have indulged in.
Image captionSome of Fancy Bear's activities had previously been identified by the cyber-security company Crowdstrike
In its blog, Microsoft president Brad Smith said it had grabbed dodgy domains 12 times in two years to shut down 84 websites associated with Fancy Bear.
It said that, so far, it had no evidence that the domains had been used in any attacks. The domains could have been set up to help a future planned assault.
Microsoft added that the attack activity seen around the domains "mirrors" what it saw in 2016 in the US and during the 2017 election in France.
Microsoft's action comes soon after the US charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking computer networks used by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
Russia has consistently denied meddling in the elections or mounting any cyber-attacks on US institutions.
Provided they don’t put humans out of business altogether, there is a good chance that, at some point in your lifetime, you will find yourself working for a robot boss. But if you think you will have an easier time working for a machine than you do working for your current flesh-and-blood boss, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
At least, that is the takeaway from a new piece of research coming out of France’s University of Clermont Auvergne, where investigators have been examining the best way that robots can coax the most productivity out of us as employees. The sad answer? Quite possibly by behaving like jerks.
Their experiment involved the so-called Stroop test, in which different color words appear on a screen, and subjects must identify the color without getting fooled by the word itself. (For example, identifying the word “brown” written in pink as pink, rather than brown.)
For this robot boss variation on the test, participants were first made to have a chat with a robot, which either gave positive (“I think we could become friends”) answers or negative ones (“I do not value friendship”) to questions. The test subjects then took the test. Those who made fewer mistakes, and answered more rapidly, were the folks paired with the meaner of the machines. These subjects performed better than either people paired with friendlier robots or with no robot at all.
As Nicolas Spatola, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends, this effect is not limited to robots; more callous human bosses also prompt similar test results from subjects. However, it can vary according to the difficulty of the tasks, meaning that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. “There is a theory of challenge and threat from [psychologist Jim] Blascovich that explain this very well,” Spatola said. “The idea is that the presence of others increase our arousal, and according to the difficulty of the task it can be positive or negative.”
Unfortunately, it does mean that whatever more jerk-like traits we see in some human bosses are likely to continue into the age of automation. Heck, it might even be in roboticists’ interest to program them in. Jerkiness could be a feature, rather than a bug. Not that Spatola is necessarily endorsing that idea.
“Even if we show that a bad robot can have a positive effect, we do not know what could happen to individuals if they were monitored by a bad robot during a long period,” Spatola continued. “I’m not sure that it would be good for their well-being.”