The long wait for a Persian iPhone keyboard

iPhoneImage copyright Reuters Image caption Apple introduced new iOS on Tuesday

Android devices as well as Apple computers have Persian keyboards, but until this week the option wasn't available on Apple phones or iPads.

For years Persian speakers used the Arabic keyboard on the iPhone, which was not really ideal for writing quickly or accurately in Persian.

There were lots of petitions to Apple, pressing them to add a Persian keyboard to mobile phones.That finally paid off with the latest release.

Arabic and Persian keyboards are very similar.But there are two major issues - the four extra letters in Persian - and the "half space" feature needed for a well-edited Persian message.

In order to type the extra four letters in our alphabet we had to press and hold another letter and wait for a window to pop up so we could drag our finger on it and see it on screen.

Yet that was still doable.The "half space" was the more serious issue.

In Persian, the letters in a single word are joined-up.Some words we make by combining two words together.These compound words should be near but not attached to each other.

On Apple and Microsoft computers, as well as in Android devices we have long been able to use a "half space" to separate words but keep them close enough.A hyphen does almost a similar task in English.But the half space is used far more in Persian.

Image caption First line is typing without half space and the second line has the half space.Extra Persian letters are circled in Red.Half space button has a blue circle around it.

For example:"I work for the BBC."

If I want to write this sentence in Farsi, I use the "half space" three times to keep the BBC letters close to each other and to join two parts of the verb.

For several years, many Iranians and Afghans signed petitions, hoping to add the keyboard.One of my friends personally wrote to Steve Jobs twice, but never heard back.

Even though Apple could have given us this option sooner, I took the joy of having a proper keyboard to Twitter and wrote about it there.

Some Android enthusiasts replied to me, saying their devices had it for "ages".

Others wondered why Apple would add the keyboard as they abandoned Iranian apps.

Recently Apple has removed some apps developed in Iran from their stores.Snapp, a popular ride-hailing app like Uber, was one of those affected.Apple said it was deleting them due to US sanctions, but some Persian cooking apps or video streaming apps developed outside Iran were also deleted.Google did not take the same measures.

Even though many see Apple's recent moves as a double standard, I still think having a Persian keyboard is good for our language.

Persian written in the Persian alphabet is common in only two countries:Iran and Afghanistan.

During the time of the Soviet Union, Iranian elites often sent their sons to Europe and the USSR to study.

Image copyright Getty Images

Amazed by the Western world, some suggested we should change our alphabet to Latin, much like Turkey did.Others argued we would cut our ties with our literary heritage, and those arguments won out.We ended up keeping our alphabet.

Then came the era of computers and smartphones.Early technology did not support the Persian alphabet.So my generation, who grew up in the 80s and 90s, started writing Persian with a Latin alphabet on computers and early phones, calling it Farglish.

Because of the sanctions, Apple and other major tech companies do not have any legal presence in Iran and as some of these smartphones are considered expensive, they don't have a big market in Iran and Afghanistan.

One may wonder why it was important for us to have a Persian keyboard on devices that not many Iranians own.

The answer is that we do care about our cultural heritage and appreciate any attempt to have a better connection with our great poets and writers - masters like Sa'di, Rumi, Hafiz, Ferdowsi, Khayyam and others.

A text for me is like a wall.Every word is like a brick.If I want to build a sturdy and beautiful wall I cannot use broken bricks.I don't want any extra space between the pieces of a brick.

As a journalist or even as a user on Twitter, I would like to make a good impression on my audience....

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Gym app Pact pays $1m over broken promises

Pact commercialImage copyright Pact

Fitness app Pact, which promised members financial rewards for meeting their health goals, has settled accusations that it broke its promises.

The app let people set exercise and dietary goals, and charged them a penalty between $5 (£3.70) and $50 if they failed to meet their target.

It pledged to share some of the "fines" with members who did reach their goals.

But the US Federal Trade Commission said Pact had now started to return money wrongly taken from subscribers.

Pact - originally known as GymPact - was launched in 2012 to help people meet fitness goals.

Pledges were verified by using smartphone location data and photographs to prove members had been to the gym.

Image copyright PAct Image caption Pact used smartphone data to prove people were genuinely exercising

People could choose how much they would be "fined" if they failed to meet their own targets.

The FTC alleged that the company had broken its promises[1] and charged "tens of thousands" of people a penalty even if they had met their fitness goals, or cancelled their subscription.

It also said the app did not pay out the rewards it had promised,

"Unfortunately, even when consumers held up their end of the deal, Pact failed to make good on its promises," said the FTC's Tom Pahl.

As part of the settlement, the company will return $940,000 to members who earned cash rewards or were incorrectly charged.

The BBC has attempted to contact principals of the Pact team....

References

  1. ^ broken its promises (www.ftc.gov)

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Hijacked software used to target tech giants

Computer codeImage copyright die-phalanx Image caption It's still not clear what the attack code does on compromised machines

Hackers who booby-trapped widely used security software also used their malware to infiltrate machines at tech firms, suggests analysis[1].

Evidence that other companies had been compromised came to light as Cisco researchers probed how attackers got at the popular CCleaner programme.

Millions of people downloaded a Windows version that hackers had laced with malicious code.

Cisco said the attackers were seeking valuable intellectual property.

Cleaning up

Last week CCleaner creator Piriform revealed that attackers[2] had managed to place a hijacked copy of version 5.33 that works on Windows on some download servers.The booby-trapped code was available for about a month between August and September,

Millions of people downloaded the compromised version of CCleaner but damage was limited because whoever created it had not updated it to include elements that could scan machines and steal data.

However, Cisco said its analysis suggested that attackers had taken that extra step on machines at tech firms they had managed to infiltrate.

Hi-tech giants including Cisco, Intel, Google, Samsung and Microsoft were among the 20 or so companies believed to have been hit in this way.

"These new findings raise our level of concern about these events, as elements of our research point towards a possible unknown, sophisticated actor," wrote the Cisco researchers.

Cisco said it was likely that a lot of other firms had been hit by whoever was behind the sophisticated and wide-ranging attack.

It recommended that anyone cleaning up after finding they had been compromised restore machines from backup as it was not clear what other code the attackers had installed on those computers.It said it was still analysing the code to find out exactly what it did.

Cisco said it was not yet clear who carried out the sophisticated attack on CCleaner and the other technology firms....

References

  1. ^ suggests analysis (blog.talosintelligence.com)
  2. ^ Piriform revealed that attackers (www.piriform.com)

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