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Tuesday, Jan 29, 2013 1:17am
New iOS 6.1 fixes JavaScript bug, tweaks lockscreen, more
A handful of differences have come to light since Monday's release of iOS 6.1 not initially disclosed, thanks to reader reports and hands-on testing. One of the most important is the news that Apple has fixed a potentially serious security bug that would turn on JavaScript permanently without the users' awareness or permission in order to display Smart Ad Banners. Other changes include making the "Report a problem" link in Apple's Maps much more prominent, and a subtle change in the lock screen music controls.

Of interest to those following reports of an eminent jailbreak for iOS 6.1 will be that Apple has not updated the baseband (firmware) version number, suggesting that the changes in iOS 6.1 are all in software and didn't require any update. This means that any exploits in the firmware that may be used to provide future jailbreaking solutions have not yet been closed, though this could change in future updates once Apple can study the forthcoming jailbreak.

One exploit that has been fixed was more of a genuine bug than a flaw; in order to display Smart Ad Banners on web pages, the system was automatically turning on JavaScript (which is required for many other web operations) in Mobile Safari even if the user had turned it off. The change was made without notification or permission of the user, and inadvertently greyed out any option to turn JavaScript back off.

The problem didn't affect many users, as many websites are severely hobbled with JavaScript off, but the update fixes the issue and allows users to turn it off (and keep it off) if desired. Also fixed were several WebKit bugs involving potential memory corruption, an issue that was reported at a hacker conference last fall.

A cosmetic change was made to the lock screen under iOS 6.1. Previously, music controls could be brought up by double-clicking the home button -- this still works, but now keeps the time display in the small "menubar" where it is normally and instead moves volume control and an AirPlay button below the play/pause, advance and rewind functions -- which now have a "brushed aluminum" appearance. If left untouched, the screen reverts to the default "wake" screen; no music controls, but an enlarged time display for quick checking. Notifications still appear on either screen.

Apple's Maps apps has also received an update, accompanying the silent updates the program has received nearly continuously since its release. The most obvious sign of changes is the repositioning of the "Report a Problem" link -- which was added shortly after the first release -- to a large button on top of other options available "under" the map page. The change makes reporting any issues much more prominent.

On its initial debut, inaccuracies and graphic glitches -- along with other issues, such as the dropping of transit directions -- met with howls of derision from critics and users alike. Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology, Apple VP Eddie Cue fired some of the Maps team members, and the program has been updated and improved ever since through quiet updates. Most of the main issues have been addressed for months, but the new version may inspire some users to give the program another try.

MacNN testing, along with tests done by other publications, in several US, Canadian and major foreign cities found that driving directions were as good or better than those provided by the web version of Google Maps, though the latter has since released an updated iOS app with many of the very features Google previously refused to implement, such as voice navigation. The lack of Google updates to the previous version of Maps was what pushed Apple into doing their own version.