Skype posts workaround instructions for connection issues found on Mac OS X, Windows (updated)

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 05:55
Category: News, Software

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Er, if Microsoft paid US$8.5 billion for something, I suppose they’d like it to work on all the platforms it services…

Per Macworld, Skype has published workaround instructions for correcting an issue that prevented many Mac users from successfully logging into the service. The company also published a set on instructions focused on resolving connections on the Windows operating systems.

Early Thursday morning, some Skype users found that they couldn’t log in or stay connected. Not all users were affected, however: Folks using Skype on iOS and Android devices were fine, as were some people using different desktop editions of the client.

The issue prevented some callers on Mac OS X and various incarnations of Windows from connecting. According to Skype, Mac users battling connection issues can repair the problem by following these steps:

– Quit Skype.

– Navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/ (~ refers to your Home directory).

– Locate the file shared.xml, and delete it.

– Launch Skype again.

Upon relaunch, Skype will generate a new version of the XML file. There’s no word yet on what caused the issue, or why deleting the XML file will correct it.

If you’ve seen this issue or tried this fix on your end, please let us know.

New version of “Mac Defender” malware found, lacks administrator password requirement

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 03:05
Category: News, security, Software

Somewhere, the guys who created this program really DO have a bridge to try and sell you…

Per security firm Intego, a new, more dangerous variant of “MAC Defender,” dubbed “Mac Guard,” has been discovered, the new malware variant lacking the requirement of an administrator password to install.

The discovery was announced on Wednesday, the company commenting that “the first part is a downloader, a tool that, after installation, downloads a payload from a web server,” the security firm said.

“As with the Mac Defender malware variants, this installation package, called avSetup.pkg, is downloaded automatically when a user visits a specially crafted web site,” the firm continued.

No administrator’s password is required to install the application, and if users have Safari’s “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading option checked, the package will open Apple’s Mac OS X installer, and users will see a standard installation screen. However, at this point users must still agree to install the “MAC Defender” malware.

The second part of the malware is a new version called “MacGuard.” The avRunner application automatically downloads “MacGuard,” which, like its predecessor, aims to trick users into providing credit card numbers in exchange for supposedly ridding a users’ systems of “infected” files for a given license fee.

This week, Apple posted a support document on its web site explaining how to remove the “MAC Defender” malware. The company also revealed it will release an update to its Mac OS X operating system that will automatically find and remove the malware.

Some reports have suggested that the “MAC Defender” malware has spread quickly, with one anonymous AppleCare representative claiming that the “overwhelming majority” of recent calls to Apple were related to the malware. The software was first discovered early this month, also by Intego.

While the original variant was categorized as a “low” threat because it requires users to type in an administrator password, the latest version is considered more dangerous, and was ranked with a “medium” risk.

The malware has spread through search engines like Google via a method known as “SEO poisoning.” Using this technique, phony sites are designed to game search engine algorithms and show up when users search for certain topics.

AT&T to introduce 4G LTE network to 15 markets by end of 2011

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPhone, News

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Though reports have suggested Apple’s next iPhone will not support the 4G long-term evolution standard, AT&T will roll out its new high-speed network to more than 70 million customers by the end of 2011.

According to AppleInsider, Details for AT&T’s 2011 LTE plans were detailed by the company’s chief technology officer, John Donovan, in a post on his company’s web site. AT&T’s 4G network will debut this summer in five markets: Dallas, Tex., Houston, Tex., Chicago, Ill., Atlanta, Ga., and San Antonio, Tex.

“We plan to add another 10 or more markets in the second half of the year, and cover 70 million Americans with LTE by year-end,” Donovan wrote. “We also have plans to add 20 4G devices to our robust device portfolio this year, with some of those being LTE capable.”

He revealed that AT&T has invested US$75 billion in its wireless and wired networks in the last four years and that the company also plans to invest US$19 billion in wireless and wireline networks, along with other capital projects, this year.

The launch of AT&T’s LTE network will come well after rival Verizon, which debuted its fourth-generation high-speed network last December in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.

AT&T has been hyping its forthcoming LTE network, and last week showed off download speeds of 28.8Mbps, along with 10.4Mbps uploads. The download rate is more than seven times faster than the 3.77Mbps rate that can be reached on AT&T’s current HSPA network, while uploads were more than eight times the current 1.21Mbps rate.

Verizon says its LTE network has real-world data rates of between 5Mbps and 12MBps downstream and 2Mbps to 5Mbps upstream. Verizon’s LTE network will be nationwide by the end of 2013, while AT&T has said its own LTE deployment will be “largely complete” by the same time.

Recent rumors have pegged an LTE-capable iPhone to come from Apple in 2012, and not this year. Verizon’s chief executive said earlier this year that Apple understands the “value proposition of LTE,” and that they will be “a part of” the technology’s future.

At the official Verizon CDMA iPhone 4 unveiling in January, executives revealed that Apple chose not to include LTE technology because it would require design changes. Officials from Verizon indicated they wanted the iPhone as soon as possible, so Apple obliged with a modified version of the GSM-based iPhone 4 released in 2010.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts support document describing how to remove Mac Defender phishing software

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 05:13
Category: News, Software

Apple has posted a support document explaining how to “avoid or remove” the infamous Mac Defender program and stated it would release an update to Mac OS X to automatically find and remove the malware.

The new support document describes the malware as a phishing scam that redirects users from legitimate websites to “fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus.”

The websites then offer phony antivirus software for a license fee between US$59.95 and US$79.95 to solve the problem, under the names Mac Defender, Mac Protector and Mac Security, often with MAC spelled in all caps.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s removal steps detail quitting the offending app and deleting it from the Utilities folder it is installed into by default. The primary damage caused by the malware is to nag the user for their credit card information in an attempt to sell them a solution to a nonexistent problem.

Windows PC pundits, have made highly publicized reports of the Mac Defender malware, suggesting it is evidence that Macs are now experiencing malware and virus problems comparable to those experienced by Windows users over the past two decades.

Security expert Charlie Miller, who has regularly won security contests demonstrating Mac exploits, has downplayed that real threat of the few Mac malware titles that have surfaced, recently noting in an interview that “Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14 downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates how rare malware still is on the Mac platform.”

Miller explained that while antivirus software can help protect your system from being infected, he also countered that “it’s expensive, uses system memory and reduces battery life,” stating, “At some point soon, the scales will tip to installing antivirus, but at this point, I don’t think it’s worth it yet for most people.”

Apple recommends that Mac users “should exercise caution any time they are asked to enter sensitive personal information online” and notes that it “provides security updates for the Mac exclusively through Software Update and the Apple Support Downloads site.”

The Mac Defender scam presents a phony website scanner with an appearance modeled after iTunes, and depicts itself as being an “Apple security center,” apparently modeled after the “Windows Security Center” Microsoft added to its own product.

Because the phony web page and its popups are tied to the browser, they do not look native alerts from Mac OS X. The scam site is also unable to install the malware without the user supplying an administrative password. Even so, hundreds of users have been duped by the scam, although the outbreak appears to be more of a nagware annoyance than a serious security problem.

In other news, the developers of Mac Defender also have a bridge they’d like to sell you…

Microsoft retracts CEO Steve Ballmer’s comments as to Windows 8 arriving in 2012, cites “misstatement”

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 04:42
Category: News, Software

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has always possessed a multitude of skills.

Knowing when to keep his mouth shut has not always been one of them.

Per InfoWorld, a Microsoft spokesperson has clarified Ballmer’s comments as to Windows 8 arriving in 2012 as “a misstatement.”

At a developer forum in Tokyo, Japan on Monday, Ballmer used the name “Windows 8″ in public for the first time.

“We’re obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We’ve done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We’ve added touch, and ink, and speech,” the company’s official transcript reported Ballmer as saying.

“And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there’s a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors,” he continued.

However, Ballmer may have said too much, as Microsoft has retracted the comments.

“It appears there was a misstatement,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement the company issued. “We are eagerly awaiting the next generation of Windows 7 hardware that will be available in the coming fiscal year. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.” Microsoft’s 2011 fiscal year ends on June 30.

According to the report, Microsoft has kept quiet about the names of previous Windows versions. Windows 7 wasn’t officially labeled as such until “just weeks” before developers received an early build.

However, analysts and developers appear to have already settled on calling the next version “Windows 8,” though Microsoft’s backpedaling has left some analysts wondering. “Was it the name, Windows 8?” analyst Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft asked. “Or was it [the release in] 2012? Sometimes this is like being a soothsayer, pulling apart the entrails of animals.”

Developers report that builds of Windows 8 are still in the early stages. For example, the Ribbon UI feature is “only half-finished and, frankly, of dubious value,” according to one report.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe releases Lightroom 3.4.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 04:59
Category: News, Software

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Early Tuesday, software giant released version 3.4.1 of its Lightroom (available on the company’s update page) photo editing utility. The Lightroom 3.4.1 update added the following fixes and changes:

– Additional camera support for several new camera models including the Canon Rebel T3i, Nikon D5100 and Fuji FinePix X100.

– Corrections for issues introduced in previous versions of Lightroom 3.

– The Lightroom 3.4.1 update includes an important correction for a bug introduced in the Lightroom 3.4 release.

Adobe Lightroom 3.4.1 retails for US$299 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later to install and run.

Opera Mini web browser 6.0 released, now native for both iPhone and iPad

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 08:46
Category: iPhone, News, Software

It’s an interesting alternative to Apple’s Mobile Safari web browser for its iOS devices.

And it just got a fairly large overhaul.

Per Mac|Life, the popular Opera Mini web browser just reached version 6.0 and is available as a redesigned, universal app that finally brings some love to the bigger screen of the iPad as well as Retina Display support for the iPhone 4.

Opera Mini 6.0 features an updated design with a fresh new look and feel as well as super smooth pinch-to-zoom and panning. In addition to its new support for the iPhone 4 Retina Display as well as universal support for the iPad and iPad 2, the new version allows for direct sharing to Facebook, Twitter and My Opera.

International font support is also now greatly improved for Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and other non-Latin languages (Opera supports a laundry list of languages from all over the world). Finally, users have the ability to open a new page in a background tab as well.

Opera Mini 6.0 is available now from the App Store; the free app is a 3.4MB download compatible with all iOS devices running iOS 3.0 or later.

If you’ve tinkered with the new version of Opera Mini and have any feedback, please let us know and thanks.

Orange CEO divulges details, says next-gen iPhone to be smaller and thinner

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 08:44
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re wondering as to the specs of the next-generation iPhone…it’ll be smaller and thinner.

Or at least according to The CEO of France Telecom, who, as cited in an article on All Things Digital, stated that Apple will use a new, smaller SIM card in order to reduce the size of the handset.

Orange has hinted that Apple wanted to use smaller SIM cards before but apparently the network operator has managed to persuade Apple not to adopt an e-SIM system.

The e-SIM would be an embedded chip within the handset that would not be removeable – something that Orange and other network operators were unhappy with. The new, smaller SIMs are a compromise.

“All of us told them it was a bad idea because the SIM card is a critical piece of the security and authentication process. It would be very difficult for a telco or carrier to manage the customer relationship. I think that they understood this point. We had a very constructive exchange and dialogue with them,” said France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard.

“We are going to work with them in order to standardize a new format of SIM which takes into account our needs with security and authentication and also is compatible with their wishes in terms of size. I understood that the next iPhone would be smaller and thinner and they are definitely seeking some space,” he continued.

Richard is also wary of the power the Apple wields with its App Store. Other handset manufacturers allow Orange to pre-load its apps on to mobile phones sold on its network, though this is not possible with Apple.

“We still are in a position to bring those apps to our customers through the app stores, provided clearly we have access to the App Store. The problem is the day when Apple says ‘I don’t want this one’,” he said.

The interview is unusually frank and may lead to some consequences, as network operators have been punished by Apple in the past for giving away information about the company’s future plans.

Microsoft’s Ballmer cites Windows 8 release for 2012, begins to drop details

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:59
Category: News, Software

Ok, this isn’t amazing news about an upcoming Apple notebook or a revelation that the next iPhone will be able to paint your living room, but it never hurts to run a Windows partition on your Mac…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed plans for a 2012 launch of the “next generation of Windows systems,” which will include Windows 8 slates and tablets at a developer forum in Tokyo on Monday.

During the keynote, Ballmer publicly used the name “Windows 8″ for the first time. While touting advances made in Windows 7, Ballmer noted, “There’s a whole lot more coming.”

“As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors” he said.

Microsoft announced in January that it plans to port Windows 8 to the ARM system-on-a-chip architecture in order to compete with devices like Apple’s iPad. “Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve. Windows will be everywhere on every device without compromise,” said Ballmer at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Early builds of Windows 8 hint at a scalable cross-platform solution that could make its way into tablets and phones. Microsoft has struggled in the mobile market, partly due to Intel’s unsuccessful efforts to meet low power requirements with its line of Atom chips.

Ballmer admitted on Monday that the company’s “big sort of effort” to transform communication with Windows Phone had arrived late. “We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us. But, we’re moving forward very actively,” said Ballmer. The company is set to launch a major upgrade to Windows Phone on Tuesday.

For its part, Apple will unveil the future of Mac OS at the Worldwide Developers Conference early next month. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion brings several major features from iOS back to the Mac and is due out this summer.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Store iPhone app updated to version 1.3, allows build-to-order Mac purchases

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:22
Category: iPhone, News, retail, Software

Apple on Monday updated its “Apple Store” application for the iPhone, offering the ability to order a custom Mac, and also more quickly receive help when at a retail store.

Per AppleInsider, the free application is currently available on the App Store. Version 1.3 is a 3.2MB download, and is available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The app requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

The release of the software coincides with the debut of Apple’s improved retail stores, which were upgraded on Sunday. The company now makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

According to Apple, new features of Apple Store 1.3 are:
– Enhanced in-store mode lets you get help and support quickly when you’re at an Apple Retail Store.

– The ability to custom-configure a new Mac with the options you want.

Using the new application, users can make modifications and upgrades to a Mac order placed from their iPhone. For example, users can add more RAM or upgrade the hard drive of a Mac before they finalize their order — features that were previously only available on Apple’s website.

The software is still only written for the iPhone and iPod touch, prompting some initial negative reviews from users in the App Store. Though the application can be run on an iPad, as all iOS software can, it is not optimized for the screen size and resolution of the touchscreen tablet.

Rumors of the updated iPhone application first surfaced on Saturday, revealing that the software was set to debut as part of Apple’s retail revamp. Apple’s online store went offline on Friday to also prepare for the changes.

The Apple Store application was first released in June of 2010. With it, users can view products, read customer reviews, locate a nearby Apple Retail Store, and buy or reserve devices like the iPhone.

If you tinkered with the new app and have any opinions on it, let us know in the comments.