Walmart to close online MP3 store later this month

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Date: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 04:11
Category: News, retail, Software

Retail giant Walmart revealed on Tuesday that it will close its MP3 store later this month, even as Apple’s iTunes continues to dominate the digital music industry.

The company declined to provide further details regarding the move, saying only that it was a “business decision,” as noted by the Associated Press. Walmart will close the store on August 29, though customers who have already purchased music through the site will still be able to access their music there.

Walmart opened its MP3 store in 2003 in direct competition with Apple’s iTunes. The digital storefront failed to gain much traction, however, with music sales on iTunes eventually passing Walmart’s combined physical and digital sales in 2008. Apple held 26.7% of all music sales by 2009, more than double Walmart’s 12.54% share.

As of late last year, Apple continued to dominate the digital music market with a 66% share, while second-place Amazon had climbed to 13.3%. Walmart’s share stood at less than 1% at the time.

NPD analyst Marshall Cohen characterized the retail industry as being in flux, noting that Walmart may be better off focusing on what it does best, rather than continuing to deliver a sub-par experience to consumers.

“It is very easy to become antiquated very quickly in the entertainment industry,” he said. “If you are losing ground, and they probably were losing ground more rapidly year after year, it’s probably better to regroup and retool.”

Walmart’s failure with its digital music store has been partially attributed to its choice of format. The company bet on Windows Media Audio, but eventually found itself competing with Microsoft’s own Zune Marketplace while being blocked from Apple’s iPod.

Apple expands buyback/recycling program for old iPhones, iPads and Macs

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Date: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 04:03
Category: Hardware, News

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If you have elderly Mac stuff, you can still get something for it.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has enhanced its recycling program to add a new “reuse” option that pays owners of existing iPhones, iPads, Mac or PC desktop or notebook computers a fair market value for their old equipment, paid via an Apple Gift Card.

The company continues to offer a variety of recycling programs: a place to dump unwanted electronics of any kind at its Cupertino, California head quarters (which it has operated since 2002); free recycling of Mac batteries at any of its retail stores; and free pickup and disposal of any brand of computer or display contracted through WeRecycle!, which user can obtain a free prepaid shipping label from at www.werecycle.com.

Users who own an iOS device or a computer from any manufacturer can obtain a credit for the fair market value of that device, calculated by PowerOn, a third party company Apple has contracted with to run the reuse program.

While recycling old products dismantles them and harvests valuable components such as metal, plastic and glass for recycled use in new products, reuse is an even greener option, as it extends the useful life of products that have value in the second hand market.

“If your product qualifies for reuse — meaning it has monetary value — you’ll receive an Apple Gift Card equivalent to its fair market value as determined by PowerON,” Apple states on its new recycling program website.

“You can use the gift card for eligible purchases at any U.S. Apple Retail Store or the U.S. Apple Online Store. If your product does not have monetary value, we’ll recycle it at no cost to you.”

Users can get a preliminary valuation for their old devices online, then arrange to ship them to PowerOn at no cost. The company will then contact the user if the apprised value is different than what was quoted online, a figure based on the user’s own description of the product’s condition.

If the user chooses not to accept the final value, it will be returned at no charge. Otherwise, PowerOn will arrange to credit the user via an Apple Gift Card within three weeks of receipt. The company also securely erases all data remaining on the devices while preparing them for resale.

PowerOn’s estimated value of a functional, first generation iPad in very good condition is US$165, for example. Users may likely be able to find their own second hand buyer for relatively new products in good condition, and fetch a higher price.

However, for older devices with some damage or dysfunctional features, the reuse option may provide an easier, more convenient option that still recoups some value they can then reinvest in new Apple gear.

Google releases Google+ app with native iPhone/iPod touch support, non-native iPad support

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 11:55
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

Google has updated its Google+ social networking app, adding native iPod touch and non-native iPad compatibility along with several other minor improvements according to iLounge.

Released last month and similar to Facebook, Google+ provides access to Google’s new social network allowing users to share information with people in their Google+ Circles and keep up to date on what their Google+ friends are doing. The initial version of the app was specifically designed to run only on the iPhone, leaving iPod touch and iPad users unable to load the app on their devices at all; this latest update resolves that issue by adding compatibility with the iPod touch and iPad in 2X mode—native iPad support is not provided.

Additional improvements include customizable Huddle settings, aggregated add notifications for Circles and performance and stability improvements. Google+ is available via the App Store as a free download.

If you’ve tried the app and have any feedback, let us know in the comments.

RadioShack offering discounted iPhone 3GS, 4 handsets until August 20th

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 03:25
Category: iPhone, News, retail

This may not be the fire sale you’re hoping for, but it’s something.

Per CNET, from now through August 20, RadioShack is cutting US$30 off the price of Apple’s iPhone 4, as well as the iPhone 3GS. Deeper discounts can be had if buyers bring in their iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS and use the company’s Trade and Save program, which it’s had going since before the iPhone 4 went on sale.

RadioShack and Target unofficially lowered pricing on phones at the end of last month, with those prices going into effect on July 31. Today’s news puts an endmark on the deal, as well as adding the capability to stack those savings with the company’s trade-in service.

Apple is expected to bring out a next-generation iPhone between now and October, with recent rumors citing the company’s launch window for October, though a slew of reports from earlier this year said it would be sometime next month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and, hey, savings are never a bad thing.

Apple releases Lion Recovery Disk Assistant to function with external hard drives

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 03:11
Category: News, Software

If your Lion partition is being finicky, this might help.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday released Lion Recovery Disk Assistant software to enable users to create recovery partitions on external drives.

Lion Recovery Disk Assistant expands Apple’s Recovery features in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to add support for creating a Recovery Disk on external drives. According to Apple’s release notes for the software, the resulting partition has all of the same capabilities as the built-in Lion Recovery: reinstall Lion, repair the disk using Disk Utility, restore from a Time Machine backup, or browse the web with Safari.

Creating an external Lion Recovery using the assistant requires that the Mac already have an existing Recovery HD. The external drive must also have at least 1GB of free space, while Lion Recovery Disk Assistant is a 1.07MB download.

The new partition will not be visible in the Finder or Disk Utility on Mac OS X, but can be accessed by rebooting the Mac while holding the Option key.

Users are warned that the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant will erase all data on the external hard drive. Apple recommends either backing up data or creating a new partition on the drive before running the assistant.

Apple also notes that if the Recovery HD is created for a Mac that shipped with Lion, the external recovery drive can only be used with that system. However, if the the assistant is run on a Mac that upgraded to Lion from Mac OS X Snow Leopard, then the external recovery drives can be used on other systems that upgraded from Snow Leopard.

Max OS X Lion contains a number of advanced Recovery tools, in part because the update is deployed over the Mac App Store, rather than via optical disk as with previous OS X versions. The latest Macs, which ship with Lion pre-installed, include a new Internet Recovery feature that allows users to start a Mac directly from Apple’s servers.

Lion arrived on July 20 and was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 24 hours. The upgrade contains more than 250 new features, including AirDrop, Mission Control and full-screen apps.

Apple plans to release a US$69 USB thumb drive loaded with Lion on its online store later this month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype updated to version 5.3.0.1074, receives full Lion support

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 08:59
Category: News, Software

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On Wednesday, version 5.3.0.1074 of the Skype VoIP application went public. The new version, a 22.2 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Updated contact list view.

- New contact grid view.

- Support for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

- Minor improvements.

Skype 5.3.0.1074 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.

New Mac OS X trojan horse goes live, acts as Adobe Flash Player updater application

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 08:46
Category: News, security, Software

The bad news: There’ll always be people designing viruses, trojans and malware for computers.

The good news: It’s quite a bit rarer on the Mac OS X side of things.

Even so, the latest attempt from digital wrongdoers to infect your Mac has been spotted taking on the look and feel of Adobe’s Flash Installer.

According to CNET, the trojan, which has been dubbed as fairly serious since it mimics the Adobe Flash Player updated, has been named the Trojan Bash/QHost.WB by F-Secure, which provided some insight as to how it works.

Once installed, the Trojan adds entries to the hosts file to hijack users visiting various Google sites (e.g., Google.com.tw, Google.com.tl, et cetera) to the IP address 91.224.160.26, which is located in Netherlands. The server at the IP address displays a fake Web page designed to appear similar to the legitimate Google site.

The Trojan is currently dormant, meaning that while it will take you to the fake Google site, nothing will happen. It is, however, programed to serve pop-up ads once the user has accessed the false IP.

The current solution is to only install Adobe updates from Adobe’s official Web site. As with any Trojan designed for Mac, the malware only works if the user allows it. Most of the threats currently in the wild can be avoided by simply sticking to paid versions of software obtained directly from trusted creators of the product.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple begins hunting down, closing device slots of users running unauthorized iOS 5 beta versions

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 04:13
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News

If you’re using an unauthorized iOS 5 beta, Apple probably wants you to stop.

Per Karthikk.net, Apple has reportedly begun closing the accounts of some developers who have inappropriately sold their account device slots, allowing them to profit from the installation iOS 5 on unauthorized non-developer iPhones and iPads.

Some developers who sold their slots for UDIDs, the unique identification numbers associated with every iOS device, have been tracked down by Apple according to the report. Apple has reportedly sent e-mail warnings to developers, notifying them that their illicit activities have been discovered.

In addition, Apple is said to have begun closing developer accounts for some who have been identified as selling their device slots. Apple has also reportedly flagged UDIDs associated with a developer account found in violation, making the device running iOS 5 “unusable.”

“Once Apple locks your iOS device, the phone will enter the initial setup mode asking you to connect to a WiFi network,” the report said. “And nothing happens more than that.”

Because it is not final, public software, iOS 5 is currently meant only for testing purposes, and is restricted to authorized members of Apple’s official iOS Developer Program. Selling device slots and allowing non-developers to test and run the latest beta build of iOS 5 is a direct violation of the iOS Developer Program rules.

But some developers have ignored these binding terms and have chosen to register another person’s iPhone or iPad UDID in exchange for a fee. Those who pay the developer can receive early access to iOS 5 and test out its new feature base.

iOS 5 is currently available to developers in its fourth beta, released last month. The latest version was issued via the operating system’s new over-the-air update feature, allowing for a much smaller-than-usual 133MB delta update over Wi-Fi.

Members of the general public will not be able to utilize iOS 5 until this fall, when Apple will release the software. The new operating system is expected to become available alongside a new fifth-generation iPhone.

In addition to wireless updates, iOS 5 will also allow for wireless syncing through iCloud. It will also offer an all-new Notification Center for prompting users, a Newsstand application for newspapers and magazines, and system-wide integration with the social networking service Twitter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to officially end MobileMe sync for certain features in iCloud transition

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, Software

Apple’s transition to the iCloud is coming and it won’t always be easy…

Per AppleInsider, while many of the features of MobileMe are simply being upgraded in the move to iCloud, Apple has previously noted that Gallery, iDisk and iWeb are on the chopping block. Now, the company has further made it clear that data sync features will also be canceled in its iCloud transition steps.

A key feature of .Mac and later MobileMe was the cloud integration of iSync, Apple’s Mac-centric tool for keeping data in sync among a variety of devices as part of its “digital hub strategy” first unveiled a decade ago. The data sync of .Mac and subsequently MobileMe moved the “truth database” from the user’s Mac into the cloud, making it possible to sync additional types of data between Macs.

MobileMe currently allows a user to sync a variety of settings between Macs, including the layout of Dashboard widgets, Dock items, passwords and credentials saved in the Keychain, email account information including Mail Rules, Signatures and Smart Mailboxes, and System Preferences.

However, all of these features will terminate as soon as a user migrates from MobileMe to the new iCloud, according to Apple’s transition pages at me.com/move.

Other MobileMe features that are not being carried forward into iCloud include Gallery media hosting, iDisk cloud storage and its integrated iWeb web hosting, will be continued for exiting MobileMe subscribers until June 30 of 2012, even after migrating other data to iCloud. These features are easy to maintain independently from iCloud, because there is no direct equivalent in iCloud.

Gallery media hosting is being dramatically reworked as a Photo Stream feature, a push updating feature that presents a user’s photos on the mobile devices, Mac photo albums, and on Apple TV rather than via a web site. Similarly, iDisk is making way for an entirely new type of document and data updating that focuses on a users’ own hardware rather than web-centric hosting.

The iCloud migration process is currently only open to developers, as it requires users to have iOS 5 beta 5 on their mobile devices, Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 with the iCloud for Os X Lion beta 6 package on their Macs, and the iCloud Control Panel for Windows beta 4 running on any PCs they use.

Apple notes that while Mail, Contacts and Calendars can be migrated from MobileMe to iCloud, shared calendars may be affected in the move, while Bookmarks will simply be imported from a client system. This indicates the reduction in data supported in the transition to iCloud may largely be explained by Apple’s hopes to keep the migration as simple and problem-free as possible, avoiding the issues users had in the move from .Mac to MobileMe.

Another reason for the shift in features between MobileMe and iCloud may be explained by the underlying security changes that differentiate the wide open iDisk from the carefully sandboxed design of iCloud’s Documents & Data.

Currently, data synced to MobileMe by Mac OS X Sync Services is copied into openly accessible folders. It is likely Apple hopes to completely secure all iCloud data to avoid any embarrassing lapses and contain sensitive data from potential malware attacks. Individual apps, such as Keychain Access, Launchpad and System Preferences, may be modified in the future to take advantage of iCloud’s key value data store, duplicating the old MobileMe features in a more secure fashion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T cracking down on customers using tethering, hotspot cracks

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Date: Friday, August 5th, 2011, 10:53
Category: iPhone, News

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If you thought you were clever in tethering your smartphone or turning it into a Wi-Fi hotspot, AT&T might have some words about that.

Per 9to5Mac, users have reported being kicked off their unlimited data plans for using free tethering apps such as MiWi for jailbroken iPhones or PDANet for Android handsets. AT&T is reportedly sending notices to these customers, informing them their plans will switch automatically to a US$45 per month DataPro plan on August 11. The carrier discontinued its US$30 unlimited data plan last summer, but allowed existing subscribers to be grandfathered in.

An AT&T representative wouldn’t confirm the hard cut-off date, but did acknowledge that it’s now cracking down on free tethering to 9to5Mac. The carrier started sending ultimatums to customers earlier this year, complete with a lovely passive-aggressive tone.

AT&T isn’t the only carrier that’s taking a hard stance against free tethering. Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T have apparently pushed Google into hiding free tethering apps from the Android Market, though only on smartphones sold by those carriers. Verizon also reportedly shows a warning page when it catches a user tethering without paying, and provides a number to call and set up a mobile broadband package.

Unfortunately, AT&T’s current customer agreement says that it may terminate or modify a customer’s service for unauthorized tethering.

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