Appearance: PPUG meets Saturday in Philadelphia

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 21:00
Category: User Group

http://thescene.s3.amazonaws.com/pics/bar/2/51481/profile/1205061797294_272.jpgThe Philadelphia PowerBook User Group (PPUG) meets Saturday, November 6, 2010 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the Manayunk Brewing Company along the beautiful Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, PA.

I’ll be on had with Bob Snow, Youngmoo Kim and David Berg to talk about the new MacBook Air, Mac OS 10.7 Lion, iOS 4.2, iLife ’11 and we’ll also play “what’s in your bag.”

As always, bring and demo your new gadgets and software and feel free to bring items to sell or swap as well. We will also have a Q&A session.

Please join us for lunch (or a brew) while we talk mobile computing. It’s a great meeting that’s free and open to you and your guests.

Manayunk Brewing Company
4120 Main Street
Philadelphia, PA 19127
215.482.8220

Internal memo: Apple acknowledges second-gen MacBook Air graphics issue, fix apparently in the works

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 04:47
Category: MacBook Air, News

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An internal memo allegedly leaked from Apple seems to support display issues experienced by some owners of the new MacBook Air notebook as well as indicate that an upcoming software update will fix the problems.

The purported memo, obtained by Boy Genius Report, acknowledges that Apple is aware of the issue and is “working on a solution” in the form of an upcoming software update. The company notes that customers have reported horizontal screen flickering on the 13″ model, while users of both the 11″ and 13″ notebooks have reported that the screen fades to light colors after waking from sleep.

The note claims that the causes of both the flickering and fading issues have been “isolated,” but does not indicate when Apple might release the software update to address the problems.

Apple representatives are also instructed to have customers attempt a resolution that involves closing the MacBook Air lid, waiting 10 seconds, and then re-opening the lid to wake the computer up. Doing so forces the display to power cycle, and should resolve the issue.

The MacBook Air screen flickering issue gained attention earlier this week. Users on Apple’s support forums have also reported vertical lines and odd colors on their screens, as well as freezing issues and trouble with the new instant-on feature.

Some have speculated that the display problems on the new MacBook Air models could be caused by the logic board of the hardware.

The new 11.6″ and 13.3″ MacBook Air models were released last month, and represent Apple’s thinnest and lightest notebooks. The new, smaller 11.6-inch model has a starting price of just US$999 with and all models relying on the Nvidia GeForce 320M for graphics capabilities.

New tests yield additional battery life in absence of Adobe Flash

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 04:40
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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It’s had a good run.

Hell, it’s had a great run.

Still, Apple has ceased bundling Adobe Flash on its new Macs, ostensibly so users could obtain the latest, secure version themselves with vastly increased battery life seems to be another leading reason for this change.

According to the mighty Ars Technica, the new MacBook Air can last for a full six hours after loading a series of webpages in Safari, but its battery performance drops down to four hours once Adobe Flash is installed and the same sites are loaded.

“Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary,” stated the article. Without the Flash plugin installed, websites typically display static ads in place of Flash content, erasing the need for constant processing power demanded by the Flash plugin’s rendering engine.

With Flash ads consuming as much as 33% of the MacBook Air’s battery potential, it’s no wonder why Apple has demonstrated no interest in getting a version of Flash installed on its iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, all of which have much smaller batteries.

This summer, Adobe launched a public relations attack on Apple for failing to support Flash on its iOS devices, nor allowing Adobe to deliver a version of Flash for the iOS platform, nor approving apps for the iOS that were created in Adobe’s Flash Professional application. Apple has backed away from refusing to approve apps created with third party tools, but has shown no interest in getting Flash content to run on its iOS.

When asked for “any updates” on the company’s stance on Flash during its quarterly earnings report, chief executive Steve Jobs quipped, “flash memory? We love flash memory,” before taking the next question.

Apple’s removal of Adobe’s Flash plugin from a default install on the new MacBook Air coincided with the company’s debut of a more conservative new “wireless productivity test” it said was more in line with actual use, and better standardized for accurate comparisons between models. Being able to test the new machine without its battery being taxed by Flash ads certainly helps the company achieve better results.

Microsoft stopped bundling Adobe Flash with the release of Windows Vista in 2007, although its motivation was likely due to the company’s efforts to push its rival Silverlight plugin. However, Windows implements Flash as an ActiveX control, which means users can click on Flash placeholders within a webpage and the Flash plugin will install itself. New Mac users will have to manually download and install Flash from Adobe in order to make it available.

Apple sells far more iOS-based devices (such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) than Macs, and no iOS devices support runtimes for Flash content. That has had a major effect upon advertisers, publishers, website design, and online video broadcasters, who have collectively made monumental shifts away from Flash. This in turn has made Flash playback far less important on the desktop than it was just a year or two ago, although there is still important content tied to Flash.

Apple has removed Flash content from its own website, although it also has supported Adobe’s efforts to add hardware acceleration to the Mac OS X version of Flash, and has approved the Skyfire plugin for iOS’ Mobile Safari, which uses a gateway service to translate Flash videos into HTML5 videos that can play on Apple’s devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype 5.0 beta for Mac now available

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 04:13
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Skype announced a public beta of its client for the Mac. Per Macworld, the new version brings Skype much more in line with its Windows counterpart in both features and interface.

First and foremost, the interface looks absolutely nothing like its predecessor, and entirely like its Windows counterpart, which got the 5.0 treatment in mid-October. Skype for Mac has shed the narrow-windowed “contact list” appearance—a staple of virtually every chat app on the market—in favor of an almost e-mail client approach. It’s a fairly minimal interface that feels all right (but not great) on the Mac.

A left sidebar contains contacts, groups, and a Recent list that displays the contacts you correspond with the most frequently. For the first time, Skype 5.0 for Mac lets you turn on full integration with Mac OS X’s Address Book from the preferences. This means you can finally call, SMS, or IM contacts without first having to go through the process of adding them to your Skype contact list. Users can also open the Contact Monitor, which offers a compact window that is more akin to the style of a thin buddy list that you can keep to the side of your work.

Beyond the major interface overhaul, the most significant new feature in Skype 5.0 for Mac is easily Group Video Calling (GVC), which first arrived in the Windows client last month. Skype 5.0’s group video chat looks somewhat like iChat’s, but unlike iChat, it supports up to ten members in a single chat (which requires that all parties have a minimum broadband connection of 4 mbps down and 1 mbps up). Skype chat is free to use while Skype 5.0 is in beta, but a paid plan will be required once the feature officially ships. There is no word yet from Skype on what GVC’s pricing will be or how it will fit into Skype’s existing price plans.

Skype 5.0 for Mac contains plenty of other new features, though it is still lacking at least one feature of its Windows sibling, albeit one that not everyone will miss: integration of the Facebook News Feed.

The Skype 5.0 for Mac beta can be snagged here and requires a Mac running OS X Leopard 10.5.8 and a 1GHz CPU or faster, though video calling requires at least a an Intel Core 2 Duo 1GHz CPU.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the beta and have any feedback, let us know in the comments.