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.

PayPal addresses security hole via iPhone app update

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Date: Thursday, November 4th, 2010, 05:10
Category: iPhone, News, Software

If you’re in iTunes, this is one more reason to snag the updates for your iOS-based apps…

Per the Wall Street Journal, PayPal has released an update to its popular iPhone app. The fix came into place after the company had become aware of a significant security vulnerability in which the previous version reportedly failed to confirm the authenticity of PayPal’s website, leaving a loophole that could have been exploited to gain unauthorized access to users’ accounts.

Spokeswoman Amanda Pires claims the company verified the vulnerability on Tuesday night and rushed to release an update for the app. The company suggests no users have come forward with reports of fraudulent activity, although any affected users will receive 100% reimbursement.

“To my knowledge it has not affected anybody,” Pires told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve never had an issue with our app until now.”

The update app, PayPal 3.0.1, is now available as a free download from the App Store.

Light Peak could arrive for the Mac in early 2011

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Date: Thursday, November 4th, 2010, 05:10
Category: Hardware, News

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Intel’s Light Peak optical cabling technology is on track to make its first appearance in products in early 2011, with Apple expected to follow soon after, according to a new report.

Per CNET, Apple has expressed a very strong interest in Light Peak after Intel approached them with it several years ago. According to sources, Apple Chief Steve Jobs and Intel CEO Paul Otellini allegedly fleshed out the Light Peak standard after Apple intimated that it was looking into optical signaling as a single port solution.

Light Peak, as we’ve outlined before, is a high-speed optical cable technology with bandwidth of 10Gbps, with the possibility of scaling up to 100Gbps in the future. A full-length Blu-Ray movie could transfer over Light Peak in less than 30 seconds, Intel states on its website. The company “expects to see Light Peak in PCs and peripherals in 2011.”

Per the report, sources claim that Light Peak will make its debut in the first half of 2011, and “likely earlier in the year than later.” Apple, which is described as an “innovating force in the industry,” is expected to incorporate Light Peak quickly after its release.

Early versions of the technology have already been tested on Macs. In 2009, “an Intel demonstration at its developer conference used a machine running Apple’s Mac OS X,” wrote author Brooke Crothers.

Optical cabling would provide Apple an alternative to USB 3.0. Though the Cupertino, Calif., company was rumored to be adding USB 3.0 to its Mac Pro and iMac desktops this summer, the updates failed to materialize. Apple has had the USB 3.0 specification for almost a year and a half. Intel has also resisted adopting USB 3.0, holding off on supporting the standard in its chipsets, despite one Intel spokesperson assuring that Intel remains “absolutely committed to USB 3.0 and beyond that.”

A continued Apple/Intel partnership for Light Peak would make mainstream adoption of the technology highly likely. Intel has the reach needed to drive costs down, and Apple is willing to take risks with new standards. Intel may also be looking to work with Apple to develop a mobile version of Light Peak, which would help it break into the mobile space, where Intel’s Atom processors have struggled for years.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Cocktail 4.7.8 (Snow Leopard Edition) released

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Date: Thursday, November 4th, 2010, 04:01
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, shareware developer Maintain released version 4.7.8 of Cocktail (Snow Leopard Edition), Cocktail, the popular shareware utility program that allows for additional Mac OS X system tests. The new version, a 2 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- Added ability to clear Koobface.A (Boonana.A) trojan.

- Added ability to clear Microsoft Office 2011 font caches.

- Minor bug fixes.

- Updated Automator actions.

Cocktail 4.7.8 retails for a US$14.95 shareware registration fee and requires Mac OS X 10.6.2 or later to install and run.

Apple ends Personal Shopping service for retail store locations

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Date: Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, 04:29
Category: News, retail

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Apple has brought an end to its Personal Shopping program in its retail stores, removing all mention of the service online and within its Apple Store iOS app.

Per ifoAppleStore, the elimination of Personal Shopping “became effective yesterday and stems from the belief that every customer should receive the same attention and amount of service.”

Originally set up in 2007 as a way for individuals to reserve an appointment with an Apple retail store employee, the company once described the program as “a whole new way to shop at the Apple Store.”

As a free service “where you and a dedicated Mac Specialist explore and test-drive products to find out which ones are best for you,” the program was intended to foster an environment of personal attention within the company’s retail outlets.

“We know the store can be busy, so when you’re ready to talk, Personal Shopping is a way for us to give you our undivided attention.”

However, as stores got busier, the premise of Personal Shopping became more difficult to deliver. At the launch of iPhone 3G in 2008, Apple suspended the program for iPhone-related visits.

“It is critical that all stores follow the same process to ensure every customer has an equal and fair opportunity to purchase a phone,” the company told its store managers.

Since I went out to the Apple Store yesterday during the middle of a weekday and it was basically overrun, there might be something to be said for this.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments.

Jobs states Apple won’t support USB 3.0 in the near term via e-mail reply

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Date: Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, 04:48
Category: Hardware, News

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It’s hard to say exactly what Steve Jobs will do next, so this may have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Per Tech2.0, a recent Steve Jobs e-mail sent as a reply to Mac user Tom Kruk stated that Apple has no plans to add USB 3.0 connectivity to Macs any day soon.

In the e-mail, Jobs allegedly wrote: “We don’t see USB 3 taking off at this time. No support from Intel, for example.”

Mac users will be missing out, for now at least. Following tests, the speed benefits of USB 3.0 are clear, particularly for high-definition video, music, and digital imaging applications. USB 3.0 offers a theoretical 10X jump over current USB 2.0 hardware, which maxes out at 480Mbps. USB 3.0, in contrast, can handle up to 5Gbps.

Intel is expected to roll out USB 3.0 sometime in 2011.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Second-gen MacBook Air may be demonstrating logic board errors

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Date: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, 14:42
Category: MacBook Air, News

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This could be a bit foreboding.

Per Cult of Mac, a rising number of complaints from users of the new MacBook Air has appeared regarding kernel panics, video distortion and other issues that could be related to defective logic boards.

Apple Discussion forum user, DanRyb, basically stated that his 11-inch model would randomly display “weird colors in vertical lines” extending across the entire screen and the machine would freeze. He was forced to power cycle the computer in order to recover.

Another forum user, Hobokendippy, reported that his 13-inch model had crashed three times twice with a blank screen and once with the screen distortion reported by DanRyb.

One user has posted a video to YouTube showing a display issue with the new 11-inch MacBook Air.

In addition to the video distortion, Cult of Mac staff have reported several kernel panics experienced on both the 11″ and 13″ models, although the extent of the problem is not yet known.

The issue, according to a testimonial on Macworld, seems to be intermittent with neither a PRAM fix or an SMC reset resolving the issue:

“Sadly, I can personally confirm these issues: Just two days after unboxing my 11-inch Air – the base model with 4GB of RAM – the notebook randomly cut to a gray screen during Screen Sharing and only a reboot could cure it. In the ensuing days, I’ve seen my Air’s screen turn a variety of colors: gray again, tan, gray-black, and – on Monday – blue! (Let’s everyone get their Blue Screen of Death jokes out of the way now, please.)

As I was working on something different in every instance, it was hard to say exactly what triggered the crashes, though Screen Sharing has been the culprit at least twice. Neither a PRAM nor SMC reset did much to help.”

While the issues do not yet appear to be affecting all MacBook Air machines and some number of defective units is to be expected, the growing number of complaints suggests that the new machines may be experiencing a higher-than-normal rate of failure. Apple did issue a software update addressing graphics issues on the new MacBook Air just as it was released, but several users have reported experiencing these graphics-related problems even after applying the update.

Finally, the following YouTube footage captures the issue in action:



If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know!!!

Target to begin selling iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 handsets and accessories on November 7th

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Date: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, 04:17
Category: iPhone, News, retail

It’s not the most exciting news in the world, but it’s useful in a pinch.

Per Engadget, the Minneapolis-based Target retail chain will begin offering Apple’s iPhone 3GS and black iPhone 4 handsets at various Target Mobile locations nestled within some 846 Targets across the country starting on November 7th.

Pricing for the handsets and accessories will be the same as everywhere else in the Apple/iPhone retail chain.

Still, it’s another place to buy an iPhone-based item if you need one in a pinch and that’s never a bad thing.

Apple releases iOS 4.2 golden master build to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, 04:28
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

Late Monday, Apple released its golden master build of iOS 4.2 for its entire line of iOS-based devices including the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod touch.

Per AppleInsider, the new OS will sport features such as as AirPlay wireless streaming of audio, video and photos to the new Apple TV or other AirPlay-compliant devices and its AirPrint wireless printing architecture, designed to enable users to create hard copies of web pages, emails and photos managed through a new Print Center app.

The new update will also finally bring multitasking features and iOS Folders to the iPad, along with a variety of other features currently only available on the iPhone and iPod touch, such as support for multiple email aliases, a unified inbox, and messages organized by threads in Mail, and the ability to open attachments in third party apps.

New multitasking features will also incorporate the software orientation lock and music playback controls available on the iPhone running iOS 4, which are accessed via swiping to the left from the list of currently running apps. The iPad also presents a brightness control in this section (as depicted below).

The iPad will also lose its hardware toggle assigned to locking the screen orientation; the button will instead work to mute audio, just like the iPhone. This move has generated some controversy because Apple not only refuses to offer customers a choice of how their hardware buttons work, but has also duplicated mute functionality, as the audio down button already works as to rapidly mute audio playback.

The update will also bring Game Center to the iPad, allowing players to invite friends or find new opponents online to play against, as well as track their own achievements and high scores.

Apple has also outlined enhanced enterprise support features in iOS 4.2, including new device management capabilities, the ability to lock down email account settings, and stronger security enhancements.

iOS 4.2 will also include support for more than 30 new languages in keyboards and dictionaries, including Arabic, Greek and Hebrew.

It also strengthens accessibility features including support for navigating VoiceOver using a wireless keyboard and a wide range of refreshable braille output displays in more than 25 languages. On the iPad, larger text options up to 56 point fonts can also be specified for use in Contacts, Mail, Messages and Notes.

Other major changes include support for Google’s revised YouTube voting, a direct link to launching a FaceTime video call from within the SMS messages interface, and new CoreMIDI music APIs for music-related apps.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple working to include RFID, near-field computing functions into next-gen iPhone

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Date: Monday, November 1st, 2010, 10:37
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Ok, this could be interesting.

Citing an anonymous source, Mac web site Cult of Mac has reported that Apple is working on adding a near-field communication chip to Apple’s next-generation iPhone would add not only “e-wallet” transactions, but also the ability to securely turn a nearby Mac into your own computer, complete with custom settings and personal passwords.

Citing an anonymous source, Cult of Mac reported Monday that Apple is working on near-field communication technology for both its smartphone and future Macs. The functionality is rumored to appear in Apple’s next iPhone, expected to launch in June 2011.

The source said an iPhone with near-field communications like an RFID chip could be used within proximity of a Mac, allowing users to load applications, settings and data on the Mac from the phone. When the iPhone is taken away from the proximity of the computer, the data would disappear with it.

“The Mac authenticates with the iPhone, which contains a lot of the information the computer needs, such as bookmarks, passwords and other data,” the source reportedly said. “The system would essentially turn any Apple computer into your own — like you’re actually working on your own computer. Same settings, look, bookmarks, preferences. It would all be invisible. Your iPhone would be all you needed to unlock your Mac.”

The information contained on the phone would reportedly include contacts, desktop picture, mouse and keyboard settings, website passwords, and even software licenses. Taking the iPhone away from the proximity of the computer would then restore the Mac to its original state.

The source indicated that Apple is interested in making it easy for users to carry all of their information with them, but that task has become difficult as file sizes and the amount of data continues to grow. They said it’s possible that Apple could store larger files in the cloud, while the basics like passwords and documents would be contained on the phone.

Last week, a report alleged that Apple is developing a new open SIM for its next-generation iPhone, which would allow one handset to work with multiple carriers. It was also speculated that the technology from a partnership with Gemalto could also enable contactless transactions through an integrated RFID chip.

Rumors of an RFID-enabled iPhone have existed for some time, though the product has yet to come to fruition. Apple has also filed patents related to near-field communications, including an application in July that described a system allowing users to rely on NFC functionality in the iPhone to research products and quickly find helpful information, such as an instruction manual.

The company has also hired experts on near-field communications, and was even rumored to be testing iPhone models with RFID chips as recently as August.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.