Apple releases Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge-equipped 2011 iMacs

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Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011, 09:57
Category: iMac, News

It’s kind of fun when the rumors are true.

Per Macworld, on Tuesday, Apple announced a new generation of iMac models, running at speeds up to 3.4 GHz and powered by the next generation of Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The models also build in support for the new Thunderbolt high-speed peripheral connection interface that debuted in Apple’s MacBook Pro line earlier this year.

In terms of processors, Apple has shifted to Intel’s second-generation Core technology—codenamed “Sandy Bridge”—for the iMac line. “What Intel has done is very tightly engineer the processor, the graphics, the cache, and the memory controller on a single die,” said Apple’s David Moody, vice president of hardware product marketing. Moody said this accelerates transfer between processor components, resulting in some impressive performance gains.

In addition, the processor architecture upgrade has enabled a transition to quad-core processor configurations across the iMac line—in comparison, the previous iMac line had only a single quad-core configuration on the highest-performance model.

“Even in the top-end, moving from the old quad-core configuration to the new quad-core configuration has seen 30 percent faster performance,“ said Moody.

The desktop line now sports the latest generation of AMD Radeon HD discrete graphics processors. The high-end Radeon HD 6790M boasts 1.3 Teraflops of performance and is up to 80% faster than the previous generation. Moody described the technology as “Mac Pro-class graphics” and said it’s the “first time we have the same level of performance in the iMac that you’d have in a Mac Pro.” The gains aren’t limited to high-end either; even the entry-level version’s Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor clocks in at three times faster than the previous configuration.

For external connectivity, the new iMacs boast the same Thunderbolt ports introduced in its new MacBook Pro line released in February. Co-developed with Intel, Thunderbolt offers two bi-directional channels that can transfer data at up to 10Gbps each—12 times faster than the theoretical maximum of FireWire 800. The technology is based on the PCI Express protocol that most Macs use for internal I/O, but via adapters it can support pretty much any other type of connectivity protocol, including FireWire, USB, and Gigabit Ethernet.

The smaller iMac sports a single Thunderbolt port while the larger version includes two—Moody confirmed that those ports are independent as well, meaning that users essentially have four 10Gbps channels. That allows, for the first time, the 27-inch iMac to drive two external displays—and that’s in addition to other high-speed peripherals. Moody also said that the adoption of Thunderbolt is progressing, with several vendors announcing plans for compatible peripherals at the NAB show last month.

As with the MacBook Pro refresh also earlier this year, the iMac line also now has a FaceTime HD camera for video conferencing. The camera can supports 720p high-definition video in a 16 by 9 widescreen format, and supports a wider viewing angle to make it easier for multiple people to get in the picture. High-definition video calls are only supported between Macs with a FaceTime HD camera, such as the iMac and MacBook Pros—calls with other Macs, or iOS devices are limited to standard definition.

The new machine comes in four basic configurations: two 21.5-inch models with a 2.5GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 and 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 processor respectively, and two 27-inch models with a 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 and 3.1GHz Quad-Core Intel i5. Apple is also offering build-to-order Web-only options to bump the 21.5-inch model to a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, and the 27-inch model to a 3.4GHz Intel Core i7; the i7 processor upgrades add US$200 to the cost.

The low-end 21.5-inch model sports a 500GB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB of video RAM, while the more powerful 21.5-inch configuration has a 1TB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB of video RAM. Both versions feature a 1920 by 1080 pixel display and 4GB of memory. They retail for US$1,199 and US$1,499 respectively.

Both of the 27-inch models sport a 1TB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and a 2560 by 1440 pixel display. The 2.7GHz model has an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB of video RAM, while the 3.1GHz model has an AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 1GB of video RAM. They retail for US$1,699 and US$1,999 respectively.

Additional build-to-order options include 2TB hard drives, an additional 256GB solid-state drive alongside the main drive, and up to 16GB of DDR3 memory. Customers can choose between a Magic Mouse or a Magic Trackpad with their order.

If you’ve snagged a new iMac, let us know when it arrives and what you make of it and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

“MAC Defender” trojan goes live, prompts users for credit card information

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Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011, 04:20
Category: News, security, Software

Security firm Intego announced Monday that a fake antivirus program for Mac OS X has been discovered in the wild. While the threat potential remains low, inexperienced users could be fooled into paying to remove fake viruses “detected” by the software, and in the process, could end up giving credit card information to scammers.

Per Ars Technica, the fake antivirus software calls itself “MAC Defender,” perhaps the first hint that it should not be trusted (Apple makes “Macs,” not “MACs”). The developers have incorporated what’s known as “SEO poisoning” to make links to the software show up at the top of search results in Google and other search engines. Clicking the links that show up in search results brings up a fake Windows screen that tells the user a virus has been “detected,” another clue that something is fishy. JavaScript code then automatically downloads a zipped installer for MAC Defender.

If the “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” option is turned on in Safari, the installer will be unzipped and run. Since the installer requires a user password, it won’t install without user interaction. However, inexperienced users may be fooled into thinking the software is legitimate.

Intego notes that the application is visually well designed and doesn’t have numerous misspellings or other errors common to such malware on Windows, though it does seem to contain some sketchy grammar. The software will periodically display Growl alerts that various fake malware has been detected, and also periodically opens porn websites in the default browser, perhaps leading a user to believe the detected malware “threats” are real. Users are then directed to an insecure website to pay for a license and “clean” the malware infections. However, buying the license merely stops the fake alerts from popping up, but your money and credit card info is now in the hands of hackers.

While MAC Defender wouldn’t likely fool an experienced user, Intego notes that its appearance in the wild is yet another opportunity to detail some useful security precautions. Don’t let your browser automatically open downloads. If your browser asks if you want to run an installer even though you didn’t try to download one, click “cancel.” And never give your password to run installers you aren’t 100% sure about.

On a final note, if you or anyone you know happens to know who created this thing, feel free to kick them in the shins at your earliest convenience.

Rumor: Apple to release iOS 4.3.3 within next two weeks, resolve location tracking controversy with update

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Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011, 04:25
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

After, well, a lot of pretty awkward questions regarding Apple’s collection of certain tracking data and what’s being done with it, Apple promised last week to release a software update to address a location tracking bug in its iOS mobile operating system, and a pre-release build of iOS 4.3.3 indicates the company is acting quickly to release the update.

Per Boy Genius Report, which received an early build of iOS 4.3.3, the update will likely be issued within the next two weeks, but possibly even sooner.

Sources reportedly told the site that after installing the update, iOS 4 will no longer back up the location database file, “consolidated.db,” to iTunes when a user syncs their iPhone or iPad 3G. Apple will also, as promised, reduce the size of the file and limit the length of time that location data is stored.

Also as promised, the update will reportedly delete the database file when users choose to turn off Location Services on their iOS-powered device.

In addition to addressing the location data controversy, the update is also said to include battery life improvements, and fixes for bugs related to the iPod software.

Last week, Apple issued a statement in response to growing concern over a bug in iOS 4 that stored a database of up to a year’s worth of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations. Apple said they don’t think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days worth of such data.

The company also said that the data should not be collected when users turn off Location Services on their iPhone, and the fact that it was being stored was a bug. The company said that it would release a software update “in the next few weeks” to fix the bug, stop backup of the database file, and reduce the size of the file and scope of the information stored.

Apple also promised that its next “major” iOS software release would encrypt the file on the iPhone, ensuring that the data could not be obtained by a third party for illicit purposes.

The company was forced to speak out on the issue after concern over the location data reached a fever pitch. The controversy prompted lawsuits, government investigations around the world, and a scheduled hearing on mobile privacy in the U.S. Senate, set to involve both Apple and Google on May 10.

The issue gained attention after two security researchers publicized their findings related to the “consolidated.db” file stored on the iPhone, although the file created by iOS 4 is not sent to Apple or anyone else.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Time Inc. reach terms on iPad distribution

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Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011, 03:04
Category: iPad, News

If you can get the biggest players to sort terms out, the rest will follow.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the U.S., has reached a deal with Apple to allow print subscribers of its titles to download iPad editions for free.

The article reports that Apple and Time have reached a deal, which stands as a vital turning point in the impasse between the iPad maker and publishers over digital subscriptions.

According to the report, the iPad editions of Sports Illustrated, Time and Fortune will support subscriber authentication starting Monday. People magazine began supporting free subscriber downloads last year, ahead of other titles from the publisher.

The deal has reportedly gone through in spite of an executive shakeup occurring at the company. In February, parent company Time Warner fired Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin after just six months on the job, citing a clash of management styles as the reason.

According to the report, Time and other major publishers have not reached a deal for selling digital subscriptions to the iPad editions of their magazines. Publishers are reportedly hung up on Apple’s insistence that the practice of forwarding subscriber information to publishers operate on an opt-in basis.

Maurice Edelson, general counsel for Time, told the Journal that the company’s executives have held frequent meetings with Apple executives, including Eddy Cue, vice president of Internet services. The Time executives “say the latest deal to make iPad editions free for print subscribers is a sign the two sides are moving closer,” according to the report.

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that publishers such as Time Inc., Conde Nast and Hearst were frustrated with delays to Apple’s then-forthcoming application subscription feature for the App Store. At the time, people close to the company’s discussion said that Time had yet to strike a deal with Apple.

Apple sparked a controversy in February when it revealed that it would take a 30% share of income generated from in-app subscriptions to an App Store app. In addition, publishers must match or better prices from subscriptions offered outside of the app and are not allowed to link to out-of-app purchases.

In response to the news, one subscription service called the terms “economically untenable,” while one developer called Apple’s new rules “a huge dick move.” The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is in the preliminary stage of looking into the terms of Apple’s App Store subscriptions.

However, not all publishers are dissatisfied with Apple’s terms. Bloomberg announced a US$2.99 monthly subscription for the Bloomberg BusinessWeek app in April, adding that the company was “pleased with Apple’s terms.”

“iPad is the most important place to be right now, and that’s where we’re focused,” said Bloomberg mobile head Oke Okaro.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.