U.S. government to work with wireless carriers to create national stolen phone database

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Date: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012, 07:28
Category: iPhone, News

This could be perceived as sort of “Big Brother”-ish, but also pretty helpful.

Per the Wall Street Journal, four of the largest wireless carriers in the US are working with the US government to create a national stolen phone database. Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile will develop their own databases and then merge them into a centralized server within the next 18 months. Eventually, regional carriers will also participate in this initiative.

The database will help carriers and law enforcement track lost and stolen phones. Besides tracking phones, carriers have agreed to block both calling and data services for these blacklisted phones. This will be an easy task for Verizon and Sprint, but not so simple for T-Mobile and AT&T.

Verizon Wireless and Sprint already track each subscriber’s phone using the phone’s unique electronic serial number. This lets them easily block any phone that’s been reported lost or stolen. AT&T and T-Mobile do not have a similar service in place, because their GSM phones use SIM cards. As long as you have a valid SIM card, you can use any phone, regardless of whether it is lost or stolen. These two GSM carriers are working on new technology that would let them track and block a phone using a unique ID.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Inventory constraints point towards possibility of new 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook on horizon

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Date: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012, 06:12
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

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When the current supplies dwindle, interesting things are about to happen.

Per AppleInsider, multiple authorized resellers this week are reflecting stock-outs of 15-inch MacBook Pros, suggesting that Apple is ramping down production of existing models before introducing redesigned offerings that will largely resemble the company’s increasingly popular line of ultra-slim MacBook Airs.

Among those resellers reflecting backorder status on some of the current 15-inch MacBook Pros is J&R, which is now sold out of both the 2.2GHz model, which is listed as “out of stock,” and the 2.4GHz variety, which is currently advertised as “on order.”

In addition, Best Buy has also stopped accepting online orders for the 2.4GHz model for home delivery. The 15-inch notebook is still available on a store-by-store basis, however a quick check of individual store inventory in cities such as Chicago and Austin similarly indicate that between 40 and 60 percent of those shops are similarly reflecting stock outs.

Earlier this week, MacConnection was temporarily out of stock the 2.2GHz model of Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro, but the notebook has since come back in stock at the online retailer.

Multiple instances of inventory constraints within Apple’s indirect sales channel are often some of the first signs that the Mac maker is drawing down stock and slowing shipments of existing models before replacing them with materially enhanced offerings. This week’s stock-outs come as Intel is gearing up to launch its Ivy Bridge chips, which have been rumored to begin finding their way into Apple’s Mac product line as early as this month or next.

Apple appears to be planning a staggered overhaul of the MacBook Pro lineup, beginning with an updated 15-inch model, followed by the 13-inch, and ultimately the 17-inch by the end of the year.

Recent rumors have claimed production of the 15-inch model will begin this month with 200,000 units, while production of the new the 13-inch MacBook Pro will occur in June with builds of 400,000 initial units.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is rumored to arrive as soon as this month with Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors. Reports have suggested Apple’s new notebooks could include Intel’s Core i7-3820QM and Core i7-3720QM models featuring integrated HD 4000 graphics.

There are fewer details on the forthcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro, as one report from March said it was “not clear” if Apple planned to introduce a new MacBook Pro with an entry-level Core i3 Ivy Bridge processor. All of Apple’s current “Pro” laptops feature only higher-end Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

The new MacBook Pros are expected to be noticeably thinner and lighter in design, and will eschew the spinning disc drive to adopt a form factor similar to Apple’s thin-and-light MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro lineup was given a quiet update with faster GPUs and graphics cards last October, while the last major redesign of the lineup came in late 2008.

Separately, in what could be a sign of the end of the Mac Pro desktop line, Amazon is currently out of stock of the 8-core model.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Parallels Desktop updated to 7.0.15094.749908

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Date: Monday, April 9th, 2012, 12:08
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, Parallels released version 7.0.15094.749908 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 306 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

– Improved 3D support.

– Ability to easily download and install Fedora 16 from within the Parallels Wizard.

– Support for the Dvorak keyboard, Arabic keyboard and French numeric keyboard layout.

– Improved support for the Swedish keyboard layout.

Parallels Desktop 7 retails for US$79.99 and requires a 64-bit Intel-based processor, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended to run Windows 7), at least 700 MB of space available on the boot volume for Parallels Desktop installation and 15 GB of available disk space for Windows.

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

Rumor: Apple internally seeding iPhone unit with 1GB of RAM, upgraded iPod touch device

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Date: Monday, April 9th, 2012, 09:48
Category: Hardware, iPod, Rumor

With one iOS device update out of the way for 2012, Apple is working on updates to the iPhone and iPod touch. While these updates are expected, some additional iOS device details have leaked.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple has internally seeded a prototype next-generation iPhone with the iPhone 4 design. The actual next-generation iPhone is specifically said to not include the iPhone 4/4S design, but Apple is testing these new devices in older casings to throw off leaks. The purpose of the prototype iPhone that we heard about is to test a variation of the “A5X” chip in an iPhone. The A5X processor in the new iPad was specifically built to drive the new Retina Display, so that chip wouldn’t make much sense in an iPhone.

Instead, the iPhone prototypes feature a variation of the A5X’s S5L8945X architecture. Like the A5X-powered iPad, these new iPhone prototypes are packing 1GB of RAM. This prototype is labeled N96 internally, so it’s not certain if this internal codename will carry over to the actual next-generation iPhone. Again, this iPhone is an internal-only unit built for testing the performance of a new chip in an iPhone, not an actual phone that Apple will produce.

The iPod touch was an interesting product for Apple last year as it was the only iOS device to not receive internal nor cosmetic changes (save for a new white model). However, it looks like Apple is still interested in the iPod touch and wants a future for it. According to a file inside of an internal iOS 5.1 build, Apple is working on a fifth-generation iPod touch that is labeled iPod 5,1 internally. No specifics have been confirmed regarding the new iPod touch hardware, but the jump from 4,1 (the current internal iPod touch label) to 5,1 indicates major internal changes, at the very least. Perhaps Apple is finally moving to an A5 or A5X-like chip in the iPod touch. After all, the iPod touch is one of the most popular gaming devices on the market, and Apple’s dual-core iOS device processors offer top-of-the-line graphics performance.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T using iTunes, telephone-based assistance for iPhone unlock process

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Date: Monday, April 9th, 2012, 07:36
Category: iPhone, News

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Following up on Friday’s story, wireless carrier AT&T began allowing out-of-contract customers to unlock their iPhone for use on other carriers yesterday, and the unlock codes are applied to the device after restoring through iTunes.

Per AppleInsider, customers who were among the first to take advantage told the web site that after dialing 611 to speak with a customer service representative, they were met with a lengthy wait to speak with a technician.

Once that AT&T representative was on the phone, they asked a series of qualifying questions to ensure that the user was eligible for their iPhone to be unlocked.

The unlock process is detailed by AT&T in a PDF document shared by users who request the service. In it, the carrier offers a series of four steps that must be accomplished in order to complete the unlock.

The unlock code actually comes through Apple and is administered through iTunes. AT&T’s instructions tell users to open iTunes on their Mac or PC, connect their iPhone via USB, and backup and restore their handset. Restoring the iPhone will unlock it for use on other carriers.

AT&T’s instructions also include a link to a support document available on Apple’s website. There, users are instructed to reseat the SIM card in their iPhone, restore their handset, or contact their carrier if they experience issues with unlocking via iTunes.

If the authorized unlock is completed successfully, users are met with the message: “Unlock Complete. Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked. To set up and sync this iPhone, click Continue.”

If you’ve been part of the unlock process, please let us know how it went via the comments and thank you.

Apple, Universal Studios reach accord, Universal Studios films now available via iTunes/iCloud

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Date: Monday, April 9th, 2012, 07:22
Category: iTunes, Software

It took some finagling of contracts, but movies from Universal Pictures purchased on iTunes can now be re-downloaded through the iCloud service.

Per MacRumors, Universal and Fox were initially absent from iCloud as a result of content deals with premium cable network HBO, though those issues were resolved last month. Universal Pictures films became available this weekend on iCloud, and users who have previously purchased the films from iTunes can re-download them at no cost.

While Universal’s films are now available through iCloud, customers looking to re-download 20th Century Fox must still wait for that content, even though HBO was said last month to have reached an agreement. The Wall Street Journal said at the time that Fox expected to have its content on iCloud “within weeks,” suggesting it may not be a much longer wait.

In March, Apple began offering users the ability to re-download movies that were previously purchased on iTunes via its iCloud service. The service even applies to the iTunes Digital Copy format, which gives users the ability to download a digital version of a film when they buy a DVD or Blu-ray disc.

The iTunes in the Cloud functionality in iCloud originally only applied to music, books and applications purchased through the iTunes Store. Now, users can access both movies and TV shows as well, from participating studios.

In addition, television content is available in high-definition 1080p format, allowing it to be natively displayed on the new Apple TV. Previously, content maxed out at 720p, which was the highest resolution output of the previous generation Apple TV.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to begin unlocking off-contract iPhone units beginning April 8th

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Date: Friday, April 6th, 2012, 11:31
Category: iPhone, News

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As much as AT&T may drive you crazy, you might like this.

Per Electronista and Engadget, AT&T will begin unlocking certain iPhones in the (very) near future. As of April 8, customers that are either out of contract or bought contract-free will have the option of derestricting the phone’s SIM slot much like the already-unlocked iPhones sold at Apple retail stores. The only other condition was to have a healthy account.

“Beginning Sunday, April 8, we will offer qualifying customers the ability to unlock their AT&T iPhones,” a spokesman said. “The only requirements are that a customer’s account must be in good standing, their device cannot be associated with a current and active term commitment on an AT&T customer account, and they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.”

The initiative follows a number of complaints that led to Apple’s Tim Cook taking action and arranging for a handful of case-by-case unlocks. Other carriers worldwide have been offering after-sale iPhone unlocks, most notably in Canada, but AT&T until now has declined to do it, even for customers who paid the unsubsidized price.

More incentive exists for AT&T to unlock phones now that its spectrum refarming gives a real chance that its 3G network, and future 4G LTE network, will work properly with existing iPhones. A SIM unlock was previously only useful for those either willing to limit themselves to 2G data or who were traveling and wanted a much less expensive local SIM card instead of AT&T’s roaming plans.

If you go through the unlocking experience, please let us know how it went and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Security hole discovered in Facebook, Dropbox apps for iOS, physical connection needed to exploit it (updated)

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Date: Friday, April 6th, 2012, 07:26
Category: security, Software

You’re probably not going to like this.

According to security researcher Gareth Wright and The Next Web, a fairly prominent security hole has been discovered in the popular Facebook and Dropbox iOS apps. The good news is that someone would have to have physical access to your iPhone, and you’d have to allow them to plug it into their Mac, then allow them to do a bunch of business on your phone to grab a plain text file from inside these apps, then they’d have to go and do something malicious on your Facebook or Dropbox accounts.

Although many have reported jailbreak is required to access this hole, that is simply not true. A Mac app like iExplorer, which allows you to open app folders on an iPhone, will allow you to access the security hole.

According to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, it works like this: iOS apps use .plist files (aka property list files), to store all sorts of little things about an app. In this case, Dropbox and Facebook are using an unencrypted property list to apparently store both the oauth key and its secret counterpart.

By using iExplorer to find the right plist, that file can be copied and dropped into another device, which would then be able to access your account as though you had already logged in. Using a property list in this way leaves us scratching our heads.

Facebook issued a comment saying they will patch this soon and a representative with Dropbox offered the following comment:

“Dropbox’s Android app is not impacted because it stores access tokens in a protected location. We are currently updating our iOS app to do the same. We note that the attack in question requires a malicious actor to have physical access to a user’s device. In a situation like that, a user is susceptible to all sorts of threats, so we strongly advise safeguarding devices.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.12

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Date: Friday, April 6th, 2012, 07:47
Category: News, Software

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Early Friday, Apple posted its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.12, an update designed to extend RAW image compatibility for the Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’11 applications.

The update, a 7.6 megabyte download, adds support for the following camera:

– Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and is also available via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new Digital Camera RAW update and noticed any changes, please let us know how it went.

Apple releases Java for OS X 2012-002 update, offers potential fixes for Flashback trojan

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Date: Friday, April 6th, 2012, 06:40
Category: News, Software

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It’s been a strange week for Java on the Mac.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Thursday rolled out its second Java update for Mac OS X in less than a week via Software Update.

Java for OS X 2012-002 appeared on Software Update just two days after version 2012-001 was released on Tuesday. Apple also released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 7 earlier in the week. The updater, a 63.8 megabyte download, requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

It’s not immediately clear, however, how the most recent update differs from the earlier version, as Apple’s links for more detail and information point to the same page as the old update. Java for OS X 2012-001 resolved multiple vulnerabilities in Java, the most serious of which could “allow an untrusted Java applet to execute arbitrary code outside the Java sandbox.”

On Wednesday, a Russian antivirus company revealed that an estimated 600,000 Macs had been infected by a “Flashback” trojan that exploited the Java vulnerability to turn the computers into bots. The majority of the infected computers were located in the U.S.

The virus was first discovered by a security firm last September. F-Secure has posted a tutorial on how to detect and remove the trojan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.