Skype updated to 5.1.0.935, resolves security flaw

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 04:56
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, version 5.1.0.935 of Skype went public. The new version, a 20.2 megabyte download, resolves a security issue that could allow hackers to gain control of a Mac via a maliciously crafted Skype message. The vulnerability made headlines last week when a security researcher publicized the issue. In response, Skype promised that an update would come early this week.

Skype 5.1.0.935 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

Amazon quietly adds iOS support for Cloud Player music streaming service

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

Competition’s a bit weird sometimes.

Amazon has silently added support for browser-based playback of music in its new cloud streaming service on iOS-powered devices.

Per TechCrunch, Amazon quietly added support for iOS devices through its built-in Safari browser. Users can log into their account on Amazon and access the Cloud Player, which now allows streaming of audio files stored on its servers.

Users who visit the site will still be prompted with a message warning them that their browser is not supported. However, music playback now works through the service, and audio is even paused when a push notification or call is received.

“Of course, this implementation is still not as good as it is on Android, where Cloud Player is part of a native app,” author MG Siegler wrote. “But if Amazon did a little web work and made the web-based player optimized for the iPhone and iPad, it would certainly be very useable on a regular basis.”

Amazon’s cloud streaming service launched in March, but initially only had support for streaming via the Web and on Android devices. Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB of free online storage, with premium accounts expandable to up to 1,000GB.

The push to launch the service, which requires users to upload their own songs and is not backed by any recording industry licensing deals, was seen as a move to preemptively take on Apple and its own anticipated cloud music streaming service. It’s also been reported that Apple is expected to unveil its “iCloud” service this year with support for bookmarks, e-mail, contacts and more, in addition to music streaming.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve played around with Amazon’s Cloud service on your iOS device and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Google Chrome updated to 12.0.742.30

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 09:21
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 12.0.742.30 for the Mac. The new version, a 36.2 megabyte download, offers the following the following changes:

- Finished implementing support for hardware-accelerated 3D CSS, which allows web developers to apply slick 3D effects to web page content using CSS.

- In addition to protecting you against malware and phishing websites, Chrome now warns you before downloading some types of malicious files.

- You now have more control over your online privacy. Many websites store information on your computer using forms of local data storage such as Flash Local Shared Objects (LSOs). In the past, you could only delete Flash LSOs using an online settings application on Adobe’s website, but we’ve worked closely with Adobe to allow you to delete Flash LSOs directly from Chrome’s settings.

- Improved screen reader support in Chrome. Many people who are blind or visually impaired use a screen reader, a special type of software that describes the contents of the screen using synthesized speech or braille. It’s a very important technology for people who would otherwise be unable to use a computer, so we’ve added preliminary support for many popular screen readers including JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver.

- We’ve removed the Google Gears plug-in, as promised on the Google Gears blog in March. We’re excited about the potential of HTML5 to enable powerful web applications, and we hope that Google Gears rests in peace.

The full changelog can be found here and Google Chrome 12.0.742.30 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) to support up to 450 mbps Wi-Fi speeds on newer Mac models

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:09
Category: News, Software

Although it’s unknown as to exactly when Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) will be released, its feature list is looking interesting.

Among these features is a new protocol that will unlock the latent capacity of recently released Thunderbolt MacBook Pro and iMac systems to use faster 450 Mbps 802.11n wireless networking, thanks to triple send and receive antennas capable of supporting three spacial streams of wireless traffic.

Per AppleInsider, the 802.11n WiFi standard supports faster networking speeds through a number of technologies, including the use of multiple antennas (aka “MIMO” or multiple-input multiple-output).

Devices and wireless base stations supporting 802.11n can use multiple antennas (up to four each for send and receive) to spatially multiplex multiple independent data streams within one spectral channel of bandwidth enabling faster data throughput, a major factor of why the relatively new 802.11n is faster than previous 802.11 a/b/g wireless networks.

The 802.11n standard also supports the less-utilized (but higher frequency and therefore weaker wall penetrating) 5GHz frequency band, which was previously only tapped by 802.11a devices in corporate networks; 802.11b/g standards both only use the (often heavily saturated) 2.4GHz frequency band, potentially suffering from interference with neighboring wireless networks or Bluetooth devices.

New 802.11n networks can also speed up data transfers by using wide, 40MHz bandwidth channels to double the amount of radio spectrum used. Apple’s Airport base stations only support wide channels when configured to work as “802.11n only (5GHz)” networks. The option is hidden behind the “Wireless Network Options” button.

MCS is reported by Mac OS X clients in the AirPort menu when holding down the Option key. This index number can scale down depending on signal strength and interference, but its top limit is bound by the features of the hardware on the client and the network’s base station.

For example, iPhone 4 is 802.11n but lacks support for 5GHz and wide channels, limiting it to 802.11n networks configured to use 2.4GHz. The iPad, in contrast, can see and connect to “802.11n only (5GHz)” wireless networks. However, the iPad can still only support one spatial stream using a 20MHz channel because, like the iPhone, it lacks multiple “MIMO” antennas (due to battery life, cost and complexity constraints, as each antenna also requires radio support as well).

This limits Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad to an MCS index of 7, with a top throughput rate of 65 Mbps. Earlier 802.11b/g devices (including older iPhones) can only support a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. The iPad, unlike iPhone 4, can also make use of 5GHz networks, which may enable for less interference from neighboring wireless traffic but does not raise its MCS index.

All Macs supporting 802.11n have multiple antennas and can therefore support two spacial streams, allowing them to achieve an MCS of 15 and a top data rate of 130 Mbps on 2.4GHz networks. Unlike iOS devices, Macs can also handle wide 40MHz channels in the 5GHz band, enabling a doubled data throughput of 300 Mbps when connecting to a “802.11n only (5GHz)” network configured to support wide channels.

This year, Apple began incorporating three send and receive antennas in its Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and iMacs, enabling them to achieve an MCS of 23 and a top data rate of 450 Mbps on 5GHz networks with wide channels. This new capability goes beyond the baseline certification of 802.11n as defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which maxes out at 300 Mbps

While not currently supported by Mac OS X Snow Leopard, a developer has reported that the developer preview of Lion does indicate support for the new hardware when used with modern base stations such as Airport Extreme or Time Capsule.

The developer tested a MacBook Pro using a 2.3GHz Core i5, and reported an MCS of 23 with a transmit rate of 450 using a 5GHz network hosted by Airport Extreme. Previous machines are only able to achieve MCS 15.

If you’ve gotten your hands on an early build of Mac OS X 10.7, let us know how it went and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

iPhone dev team releases untethered jailbreak for iOS 4.3.3

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:33
Category: iPhone, News, Software

For those of you who don’t mind living on the edge, you can now do it a bit more sensibly with your iPhone.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, jailbreakers hesitant to update to iOS 4.3.3 can now do so without losing their ability to jailbreak. The iPhone dev team confirmed iOS 4.3.3 is still vulnerable to the untethered jailbreak exploit that @i0n1c created for 4.3.1. Released earlier this week, this version of iOS fixes the location bug that made headlines a few weeks ago.

Both the group’s PwnageTool and redsn0w have been updated and will jailbreak iOS 4.3.3 devices including the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4G, iPad1 and AppleTV 2G (v4.3;8F202). Unfortunately, the iPad 2 is not yet supported and its jailbreak is still under development.

Head over to the dev team’s blog for more information about this untethered jailbreak. As with all jailbreak attempts, follow the directions carefully and proceed at your own risk…

Other World Computing offers 480GB solid state drive option for MacBook Air

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 06:38
Category: hard drive, MacBook Air, News

It’s not cheap but it’s nifty and useful.

Per Macworld, Other World Computing has announced the Mercury Aura Pro Express 480GB, which the company says is the largest high performance solid state drive available for the 2010 MacBook Air. The full Mercury Aura Pro Express line offers solid state upgrades for both the 11.6″ and 13.3″ Airs, in 180GB, 240GB, 360GB, and 480GB sizes.

OWC, which says it is the only company making third-party drives for the 2010 MacBook Air, claims that its drives perform up to 68% faster than Apple’s stock Air drives in real-world use, with peak data rates of 275MB per second. The company also says that unlike other solid state drives, the Mercury Aura Pro Express drives won’t suffer from transfer speed reduction with heavy use.

The large, speedy drive will put a strain on your wallet. The smallest entry in line, the 180GB drive, retails for US$480 while the 480GB unit retails for US$1580.

The drives offer chip-based data encryption, and use SandForce RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology to provide RAID-like protection without a performance hit.

Apple releases firmware updates for Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro, iMac units

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 06:27
Category: iMac, MacBook Pro, News, Software

It never quite works perfectly until the updates hit.

Per AppleInsider, Apple this week released a series of updates for its newest MacBook Pro notebooks and iMac desktops equipped with the high-speed Thunderbolt port, addressing issues related to performance and stability.

Two updates are available for MacBook Pro owners: MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4, a 132.69MB download, and MacBook Pro EFI Update 2.1, a 3.06MB download. Both are available direct from Apple’s website or via Software Update.

Update 1.4 is said to include fixes that improve graphics stability, address issues with external display support and 3D performance, and also improve Thunderbolt device support.

Meanwhile, EFI Update 2.1 includes fixes that resolve an issue with Turbo Mode in Boot Camp, and improves performance and stability for graphics and Thunderbolt. A user’s power cord must be connected and plugged in to a working power source when applying this update, as it updates the EFI firmware on the MacBook Pro.

Owners of the new iMacs just released this week get Mac OS X 10.6.7 Update for iMac (early 2011) 1.0, a 382.56MB download, and iMac EFI Update 1.6, weighing in at a 6.1MB download. The Mac OS X update applies a number of fixes for the Snow Leopard operating system, including:

- Improve the reliability of Back to My Mac.

- Resolves an issue when transferring files to certain SMB servers.

- Addresses various minor Mac App Store bugs.

- Addresses minor FaceTime performance issues.

- Addresses issues with graphics stability and 3D performance.

- Improves external display compatibility.

- Improves Thunderbolt device support.

Finally, the iMac EFI Update 1.6 includes fixes that improve the performance and stability for the new high-speed Thunderbolt port. The update will restart any iMacs it is installed on, at which point a gray screen will appear with a status bar to indicate the progress of the update.

Apple has already quickly released a handful of updates for its new iMac desktops. On Tuesday, when the all-in-one computers first went on sale, a Boot Camp update was also available for download.

Apple updated its iMac line on Tuesday, adding faster Sandy Bridge Intel quad-core processors, a FaceTime HD camera, and the new Thunderbolt port. Thunderbolt debuted in February in Apple’s refreshed MacBook Pros.

If you’ve tried the updates and noticed any significant changes (for better or for worse), please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple may switch to ARM processors for notebooks in 2013

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 05:27
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per SemiAccurate, sources have claimed that Apple will be transitioning from Intel processors to ARM processors in the not too distant future.

The short story is that Apple is its notebook line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM-based chips as soon as possible.

The transition seems unlikely to take place after ARM has moved to full 64-bit cores which won’t likely be until at least mid-2013.

At that point, Apple can move to ARM without worrying about obsoleting code with an [instruction set architecture] that is on the verge of changing, and no memory overhead worries either.

Apple has made a heavy investment in the ARM architecture which presently powers their iOS line of products. Apple even made the bold move to take ARM processor design in house with the acquisition P.A. Semi and Intrinsity.

A transition of the Mac notebook line over to a different processor architecture would still present some roadblocks. While Apple did previously succeed in such a transition in the past with the PowerPC to Intel transition, it was not without an incredible amount of engineering to ease the process. Existing Mac applications would be unable to run on the new ARM processors without some sort of emulation layer. Mac applications would have to be recompiled to support the ARM processors.

While ARM is known for their low power processors, last year they announced plans to move into high-performance computing in the future, and has been rumored to moving into the 64-bit space as well.

Codenamed “Eagle,” the A15 architecture is ostensibly aimed at netbooks and tablets, but a look at the spec sheet leaves no doubt that ARM is absolutely gunning for the server market that Intel and AMD currently dominate.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

Sketchbook Pro Updated to 2.0

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Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 17:11
Category: iPad, News, Software

I’m reporting from my iPhone at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco where I am surrounded by incredible examples of design and technology from a number of different categories. My favorite being the 3D television that doesn’t require 3D glasses.

Tonight’s event is to introduce the impending release of Sketchbook Pro 2.0 which adds a slew of new features, and for the cost conscious, also marks a price decrease from $7.99 to $4.99 (iPad version). So, hold out a few more hours and save $3! And this app is definitely worth it…even at the original price.

Present at the announcement is Jay Shuster, Art Director at Pixar Animation, who used Sketchbook Pro for his development work on Cars 2. I’ll cover a little more after I get a chance to play with the app some more and review the promo materials on this awesome thumb drive.

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Rumor: Supply chain sources indicate updates to various Macs in coming months

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Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2011, 03:03
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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When in doubt, check the supply chain.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Shaw Wu has conferred with sources along Apple’s supply chain and has noted that Apple plans to refresh the rest of its Mac lineup, which would include the MacBook, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and MacBook Air, “in upcoming months.”

Not included on Wu’s list are the MacBook Pro, which underwent a refresh in February, and the iMac, which saw a new version on Tuesday. Both products saw a transition to Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors and the addition of the new high-speed Thunderbolt input/output port.

Wu believes the MacBook refresh is especially important because the entry-level notebook represents roughly one-third of Apple’s portable business, which itself has grown to 73% of all Mac sales. The last update for the MacBook came in May 2010.

As for the other Macs, the Mac Mini was most recently refreshed in June 2010, while the Mac Pro saw an update last July and the MacBook Air received a substantial upgrade last October. Wu sees the upcoming Mac refreshes as offsetting “a very minor cannibalistic impact” that the iPad 2 could have on Apple’s Mac business.

In February, a report claimed that Apple will replace the MacBook Air’s aging Core 2 Duo chip with the current Sandy Bridge processors in June.

In his note, Wu told investors that Tuesday’s iMac refresh stands as “a worthy upgrade” and should help “reinvigorate” Mac’s desktop business, which has declined to 27% of Macs shipped. Sales of Mac desktops actually dropped by 12% year over year last quarter, compared to 53% year over year growth for portable Macs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.