Skype updated to version 5.2.0.1572

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Date: Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 11:23
Category: News, Software

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On Wednesday, version 5.2.0.1572 of the Skype VoIP application went public. The new version, a 20.8 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Updated localizations.

- The removal of “Professional Account”.

- Minor improvements.

- Skype credit balance will be shown to users who are member of Skype Manager by removing “Professional Account”.

Skype 5.2.0.1572 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.8 Supplemental Update, offers final fixes for Snow Leopard operating systems

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Date: Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 04:19
Category: News, Software

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Apple on Monday issued a recommended “Supplemental Update” for all Macs running Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 that delivers a handful of final fixes for the previous-generation operating system.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has stated that the update, a 10.2 megabyte download, resolves issues with:

- Transferring personal data, settings, and compatible applications from a Mac running Mac OS X Snow Leopard to a new Mac running Mac OS X Lion.

- Certain network printers that pause print jobs immediately and fail to complete.

- System audio that stops working when using HDMI or optical audio out.

A similar 10.23 megabyte download was released for Snow Leopard Server.

For those Macs that haven’t yet moved to Snow Leopard version 10.6.8, Apple re-released its distributions of that point release with the supplemental fixes baked in:
- Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update v.1.1 (453MB)

- Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1 (1.09GB)

- Mac OS X Server v10.6.8 Update v1.1 (518MB)

Monday’s releases would appear to be the final updates Apple has planned for the Snow Leopard operating system, with the company having released Mac OS X Lion last Wednesday.

If you’ve tried the updates and noticed any changes, please let us know.

CrossOver updated to 10.1.1

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Date: Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 03:38
Category: News, Software

CrossOver, the popular emulation program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 10.1.1. The new version, which is available as a demo, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Added a workaround for a bug in OSX 10.7 Lion. Many games running in a virtual desktop cause a crash. This can be resolved by setting the CX_LEAK_XPLUGIN_SURFACES environment variable.

- Work around a bug in OSX 10.6.8 Snow Leopard. 10.6.8 generated corrupt iconfiles which caused occasional Finder crashes. Now we use a different APIto generate icon files which bypasses the issue.

- Changed behavior of group permissions on certain files. Resolves an issuewith .docx files on certain file systems.

CrossOver 10.1.1 retails for US$69.95 and requires Mac OS X 10.5 and or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Apple releases iOS 4.3.5 update

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Date: Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 03:38
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, security, Software

On Friday, Apple released iOS 4.3.5, the latest incarnation of its iOS operating system for its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. The updates fix a security vulnerability with certificate validation and arrive in two versions, thanks to the different flavors of the iPhone 4. iOS 4.3.5 applies to the iPad and iPad 2, the third- and fourth-generation iPod touch, the iPhone 3GS, and the iPhone 4 (GSM model); users of the CDMA model of the iPhone 4 instead get iOS 4.2.10.

These updates can be snagged by plugging in your respective iOS device and checking for updates in iTunes.

If you’ve tried the updates and noticed any differences, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: iPhone 5 to launch in ‘early to mid-September’

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 07:58
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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The cool cats at Boy Genius Report are citing that AT&T is beginning preparations for an expected “early to mid-September” launch of the next-generation iPhone, in line with launch rumors and expectations and other reports of Apple beefing up its retail store staffing over a similar timeframe.

BGR has learned that AT&T has begun communicating launch plans internally for Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5 handset, informing employees across the company, and those who work in retail locations, to finish any sort of employee training as soon as possible. AT&T is asking managers to finish training in order to have employees available for the influx of foot traffic expected in September, a proven source has stated.

Apple has been preparing to increase staffing at its retail stores in the United States and United Kingdom, and rumors have suggested that Apple will use its traditional fall iPod media event to introduce the next-generation iPhone this year. That event has typically taken place in early September, although some reports have pushed that date up into late August this year ahead of a September launch for the device. Apple has announced that iOS 5 will debut this “fall”, and that software launch will undoubtedly occur right around the release of the next-generation hardware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Security researcher to illustrate MacBook batteries’ vulnerabilities to malware

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 04:19
Category: battery, News, security

In the category of “weird but interesting and mildly disturbing”, a prominent security researcher has discovered a vulnerability in the batteries of Apple’s MacBook line of portable computers that could allow hackers to ruin the batteries or install malware on them that could corrupt a Mac.

Per Forbes, Charlie Miller, a renowned white-hat hacker who works for security firm Accuvant, plans to reveal and offer a fix next month for a MacBook battery vulnerability he has discovered. Miller uncovered default passwords, which are used to access the microcontroller in Apple’s batteries, within a firmware update from 2009 and used them to gain access to the firmware.

Apple and other laptop makers use embedded chips in their lithium ion laptop batteries to monitor its power level, stop and start charging and regulate heat.

During the course of his tests, the researcher “bricked” seven batteries, rendering them unusable by rewriting the firmware. Of more concern is the possibility that hackers could use the vulnerability to install difficult to remove malware, or, in a worst case scenario, cause the batteries to explode.

“These batteries just aren’t designed with the idea that people will mess with them,” he said. “What I’m showing is that it’s possible to use them to do something really bad.” According to him, few IT administrators would think to check the battery, providing hackers with an opportunity to hide malicious software on a battery that could repeatedly implant itself on a computer.

Miller admitted that he hasn’t tried to blow up any batteries, but he did say it might be possible. “You read stories about batteries in electronic devices that blow up without any interference,” he noted. “If you have all this control, you can probably do it.”

Another researcher, Barnaby Jack, who works for antivirus software maker McAfee, also looked into the battery issue a couple years ago, but said he didn’t get as far as Miller did.

Miller, who is a regular winner of security contests demonstrating Mac, Safari and iPhone exploits, has notified Apple and Texas Instruments of the issue. Despite requests from several other researchers not to proceed, he plans to unveil the vulnerability, along with a fix he calls “Caulkgun,” at the Black Hat security conference next month.

“Caulk Gun” will change a battery’s default passwords to a random string of characters. While the fix will prevent hackers from breaking into the battery, it would also block any future firmware updates from Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple initiates replacement program of 1TB Seagate hard drives for iMacs sold between May and July of 2011

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 03:21
Category: iMac, News

If you bought an iMac between May and July of this year, you might have a replacement hard drive coming your way.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is recalling some Seagate 1TB hard drives used in iMac systems sold between May 2011 and July 2011 because of an unspecified failure issue.

The program was initiated on Friday and affected iMac owners who provided an email during the product registration process are being contacted regarding the issue.

“Apple has determined that a very small number of Seagate 1TB hard drives used in 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMac systems, may fail under certain conditions. These systems were sold between May 2011 and July 2011,” the company said.

Users who have not received an email from Apple can check the program’s web site to see if they are eligible for the replacement.

The company offers three options for replacing the hard drives: Apple Retail Store, Apple Authorized Service Provider and Apple Technical Support.

Apple recommends that customers take advantage of the replacement “as soon as possible.” Customers are also advised to back up their data prior to going in for service. They will also need to have the original OS installation discs that shipped with their product in order to reinstall the “operating system, other applications and any backed up data after your hard drive is replaced.”

The program will run through July 23, 2012, at which time Apple will evaluate whether further extensions are needed. The recall does not extend the standard warranty coverage of the iMac.

Apple released the current generation of iMacs in May, adding quad-core Sandy Bridge processors from Intel and the high-speed Thunderbolt input/output port. 1TB hard drives come standard on all but the entry-level model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Perian 1.2.3 released

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 03:39
Category: News, Software

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Late Tuesday, the Perian team released version 1.2.3 of Perian, the open-source QuickTime components effort that allows QuickTime to support and play a variety of additional formats beyond what it would normally be able to handle.

The new version makes the following fixes and changes:
- AVI, FLV, and MKV file formats.

- MS-MPEG4 v1 & v2, DivX, 3ivX, H.264, FLV1, FSV1, VP6, H263I, VP3, HuffYUV, FFVHuff, MPEG1 & MPEG2 Video, Fraps, Windows Media Audio v1 & v2, Flash ADPCM, Xiph Vorbis (in Matroska), MPEG Layer II Audio.

- AVI support for: AAC, AC3 Audio, H.264, MPEG4, and VBR MP3.

- Subtitle support for SSA and SRT.

- Some Fraps videos only displayed black.

- Workaround checks for Front Row stopped being effective.

- Fixed compatibility with web video playback.

- Worked around System Preferences crashing during an update on 10.6.

- Further fixes to Matroska import.

Perian 1.2.3 is a 3.4 megabyte download and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

Rumor: White iPod touch en route for 2011, minor spec updates expected

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Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 07:51
Category: iPod Touch, Rumor

An update next month to Apple’s flagship digital media player may outfit the device in an additional color but may otherwise represent a rather modest refresh when compared to years past according to AppleInsider.

The iPod, which struck a resurgence that helped place Apple back on the map in 2001, may for the first time take a back seat to the company’s more lucrative and influential devices — such as the iPhone and iPad — when the electronics maker unveils its holiday lineup of iOS devices sometime between mid-August and mid-September.

For years the iPod lifted Apple as its bread-and-butter product but now accounts for a paltry 5% of the company’s revenue, according to data released as part of its fiscal third quarter earnings report this week. The majority of that revenue now comes from the higher-ASP iPod touch, which accounted for more than half of the 7.54 million iPods shipped during the quarter.

Adding a bit more color to the matter are a series of recent industry checks by Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPod touch is the only one of Apple’s four iPod product lines that continues to show any semblance of unit growth heading into the second half of the year.

Looking into the current third calendar quarter, Kuo said checks indicate Apple has placed orders for white iPod touch models that are expected to go into mass production sometime in late August, but he added that the build plans for those models reflect few, if any, distinguishable changes from the existing black models introduced last fall.

“It means no spec update of iPod touch this year,” he said.

And while such claims may or may not pan out, it’s worth noting that the same round of checks by the analyst revealed earlier this week that Apple’s production roadmap for its legacy white MacBook appeared to drop off in August, and that no future updates were expected. Within days of those checks, Apple formally discontinued sales of the white MacBook to consumers, relegating the notebook to an education-only product.

Asked why he believes his checks into this year’s iPod touch update will similarly prove accurate, Kuo said it’s all about a priority shift towards the market-leading iPhone and the iPad, which now combine for a whopping 68% of Apple’s sales. Unlike years past when Apple updated the iPhone in the summer, met initial demand, and only then began sharing components with the iPod touch in the fall, this year’s iPhone refresh has been pushed inline with that of the iPod touch.

“[The] iPhone and iPad have higher priority to get shared components of iOS devices when the supply chain is tight (especially after the Japan quake),” Kuo said, suggesting that Apple has such high expectations for the fifth-generation iPhone that it may not be confident it could secure enough components to introduce a similarly-equipped iPod touch around the same time.

For perspective, Apple shipped at least 33 million iOS devices last quarter, struggling to build enough iPads the entire stretch. That quarter included 20 million iPhones, and it wasn’t a new iPhone quarter. The iPhone 4 actually celebrated its first birthday near the end of the 3-month span.

Apple has proven that it can beat at a pace that is sometimes beyond the scalability of its suppliers, and is now pouring billions into those companies to make sure they catch up so it doesn’t have to slow down. In addition to mass production of the iPhone 5 in September, Kuo says Apple has an ambitious but, for those reasons, tentative plan that could see a new iPad enter production only a few months later.

Although the “plan might change,” the analyst’s current checks have a new iPad hitting the manufacturing lines sometime in the fourth quarter. He says, however, that it’s unclear when Apple plans to introduce it to market.

“Component suppliers will start to ship for next iPad in mid 3Q11 and MP date will be in 4Q,” he wrote in a communication to AppleInsider. “The demand forecast is strong and Apple prefers to allocate shared components to iPhone and iPad.” Kuo added that TPK currently acts as the sole source for touch-screens for white iPads but that Wintek will start sharing those duties in September.

The analyst’s checks aside, there’s been little to no evidence thus far to suggest a material update to the iPod touch is near production. No reports have surfaced with talk of parts or supplier contracts for a new model, and even Apple’s own iOS betas are already dropping hints at two versions of an iPad 3 but haven’t turned up mention of a fifth-gen iPod touch. Instead, the last few releases included references (above) to an unreleased “iPod4,2,” which identifies it as a player based on the existing, fourth-gen iPod touch architecture.

Should Apple indeed forgo an architectural revamp of the iPod this year, the advent of a white model could serve to re-energize sales in a move similar to the one that played out a few months ago with the arrival of the white iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iFixIt performs teardown of 2011 Mac mini, finds room for second hard drive

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Date: Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 04:32
Category: Mac mini, News

A teardown of Apple’s just-released Mac Mini reveals a similar design to the previous generation, though with the addition of the new processor, Thunderbolt controller and Bluetooth 4.0, while the company’s decision to remove the optical drive made room for a second storage drive.

Apple released the latest version of the Mac Mini on Wednesday, adding next-generation Intel processors, improved graphics for up to twice the performance, and the high-speed Thunderbolt port. The company also released Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, new MacBook Airs and a Thunderbolt LED Cinema Display.

Per AppleInsider, the cool cats at iFixit have taken apart the 2.3GHz Core i5 version of the new 2011 Mac mini, noting that the innards “look rather identical to the previous model.”

As is often the case with the company, Apple has given and taken away. This time around, the Mac maker has made the controversial decision to remove the optical drive. But, with the centimeter and a half of extra space gained, the company has made room for a second hard drive or solid state drive.

iFixIt suggests that users may be able to install a second hard drive by themselves, with the only deterrent being “the availability of a second SATA hard drive-to-logic board cable.” Apple does offer dual hard drive build-to-order options for its more expensive 2.5GHz i5 model and the quad-core 2.0GHz i7 server version comes standard with two 500GB HDDs, but iFixit’s teardown appears to show that users can add a second drive to the low-end model on their own.

According to the report, the Mac Mini utilizes a similar Thunderbolt port controller to that found in the Early 2011 iMac. The desktop also contains the same Bluetooth 4.0 chip as the one discovered in the MacBook Air earlier on Thursday.

The Mac Mini received a notable repairability score of 8 out of 10; the desktop contains no proprietary screws, nor does it use any glue that needs to be removed. The report found upgrades to the RAM and hard drive to be an easy task. Removing the power supply does take some more work, however, as all of the internals must be removed first.

Benchmarks for the new Mac Mini reveal that the new models are “absolute screamers,” with the top of the line units running roughly twice as fast as last year’s models.

If you’ve snagged the new Mac mini and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.