Blizzard optimizing Diablo III to take advantage of Retina Display MacBook Pro

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Date: Thursday, June 21st, 2012, 13:29
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

This could turn out to be very, very awesome.

On Thursday, Blizzard announced that its best-selling Diablo III title currently runs on the new MacBook Pro at the native resolution of its Retina display and that the developer is working on further improvements to the title specific to Apple’s latest notebook.

Per AppleInsider, Blizzard said it was “pleased” that Apple decided to include Diablo III I its keynote presentation at the Worldwide Developers Conference last week.

“While we can confirm that the game runs natively on and takes full advantage of the full screen resolution for the new MacBook Pro, we need to do some work to optimize it for windowed mode on the new system,” the developer said. “We will provide our Mac players with an update when we have further details to share.”

In recent benchmarks, Diablo III consistently ran around 30 frames per second on the Retina Display MacBook Pro when playing at the highest possible resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 pixels with all settings on high and anti-aliasing disabled.

Apple’s native applications in OS X already take advantage of the Retina display of the new MacBook Pro, and separate updates are also available for iMovie, iPhoto, Final Cut Pro and Aperture.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VirtualBox updated to 4.1.18

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Date: Thursday, June 21st, 2012, 05:57
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.1.18. The new version, a 92.7 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

- VMM: fixed VERR_REM_VIRTUAL_CPU_ERROR under rare conditions after the guest has been reset (bug #5164 and others).

- VMM: fixed host freezes with 64-bit guests on 32-bit Linux hosts (bug #10528).

- VRDP: added a workaround for rdesktop clients not properly updating the screen size when minimized.

- AHCI: fixed a rare bug which can cause a guest memory corruption after the guest storage controller has been reset.

- NAT: another attempt to fix crashes under rare conditions (Windows hosts only; bug #10513).

- Mac OS X hosts: addressed issues running Leopard / Snow Leopard (bug #10631).

- Linux hosts / Bridged Networking: fixed the problem with device driver unloading on kernels 3.2.18 and newer due to an invalid reference counter (bug #10624).

- Linux hosts / guests: Linux 3.5-rc1 fixes.

- Linux Additions: the guest content was sometimes not properly updated (bug #9887).

- Solaris Additions: installer fix for X.org Server 1.11 and 1.12.

VirtualBox 4.1.18 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

Testing shows Retina Display MacBook Pro capable of powering 3 external monitors

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Date: Thursday, June 21st, 2012, 05:14
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Ok, this is cool.

Per Other World Computing, testing has shown that Apple’s new Retina Display-equipped 15-inch MacBook Pro can power up to three external monitors for an impressive total of four screens.

The peripheral sales company put the new flagship professional-level laptop through its paces by hooking it up to two iMacs in display mode via Thunderbolt and an LG monitor via HDMI while setting the machine’s own display settings to “Best for Retina.”

Even with all four displays active, the new MacBook Pro did not appear to have any performance issues. “Moving images and media didn’t create any lag and we were able to play video on all four displays simultaneously,” OWC wrote in a blog post about the experiment.

Counting the full resolution of the MacBook Pro’s display, OWC’s four-screen setup shows the laptop powering a whopping 14.86 million pixels.

Apple’s own technical specifications for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display only detail support for two external displays at 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, plus the built-in display. The laptop’s graphics are powered by NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 650M GPU and Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 4000.

The new MacBook Pro has received gushing reviews, with most noting the US$2,200 price as the only major downside.

In addition to the Retina Display, the new MacBook Pro features a thinner form factor, SSD storage, USB 3.0 and Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors. A recent teardown of the laptop’s display called Apple’s design, which removed a layer of glass, an “engineering marvel.”

So, if you’ve got a brand new Retina Display MacBook Pro and have three external displays to power today…have at it!

Microsoft announces Windows 8 release date for this fall, shows off NFC features

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Date: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, 11:06
Category: News, Software

It may not be your favorite operating system, but it’s good to have on hand.

Microsoft announced today that its Windows 8 operating system will launch this fall alongside Windows 8 for PCs and the new Surface tablet, featuring e-wallet support with NFC chips, as well as support for high-definition screens.

Windows Phone 8 was unveiled at Microsoft’s Windows Phone Developer Summit, where the company announced that the platform will support multi-core CPUs and high-definition screen resolutions. The new Windows Phone 8 will also borrow much of its code base from Windows 8, which will allow developers to create applications that can be run on phones, tablets and desktops all running Microsoft’s operating systems.

Windows Phone 8 also features Internet Explorer 10, which Microsoft said has four-times faster JavaScript performance than its predecessor, Windows Phone 7.5, and also twice the feature support for HTML5. Microsoft says that Internet Explorer 10 for Windows Phone 8 gets a better SunSpider score when testing Web browsing than the iPhone 4S running Apple’s first beta of iOS 6.

The operating system will also support near-field communications chips with a native wallet application that will store credit and debit cards, as well as loyalty and membership cards. Microsoft Vice President Joe Belfiore also demonstrated onstage on Wednesday how the new NFC functionality in Windows Phone 8 will allow handsets to scan NFC-enabled advertisements or business cards.

Microsoft is also focusing on enterprise users with Windows Phone 8, offering encryption, secure boot, and IT device management. And turn-by-turn navigation will also be built in to the operating system with Nokia map technology.

Starting with Windows Phone 8, developers will also be able to offer in-application purchases. That means upgrades and other content can be purchase with an integrated tool part of the operating system.

Microsoft is also enhancing its speech support with the latest version of Windows Phone. But in one onstage demonstration, the Audible application was asked to play “Game of Thrones,” but the phone mistakenly tried to search for “St. Louis, Missouri.” After the technical hiccup, Microsoft showed how speech recognition could be used by third-party developers for functions like searching, and playback and pausing of content.

Devices currently running Windows Phone 7.5 will not be able to upgrade to the new Windows Phone 8. Instead, Microsoft announced on Wednesday that some of the new features, such as an updated Start screen, will be brought to legacy devices with the Windows Phone 7.8 update.

The unveiling of Windows Phone 8 comes only a few days after Microsoft held a heavily hyped, high-profile event in Hollywood to unveil Surface, its new touchscreen tablet that will compete with Apple’s iPad when it hits the market this fall. Surface will be built by Microsoft itself, and will come in two forms: an ARM-based model running the Windows RT operating system, and a “pro” model featuring an Intel processor and running the full Windows 8 operating system.

A final release date and pricing have yet to be announced for the new operating system.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

LG pinpointed as supplier for MacBook Pro Retina Display

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Date: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, 06:27
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Per a tweet by iFixit, electronics maker LG was identified as one of the parties responsible for the new Retina Display in the recently-released 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook.

Particular interest has been paid to who supplies components to Apple since its largest supplier, Samsung, has become a fierce rival and legal opponent. Over the last year, Apple has shown signs that it would like to move away from relying on Samsung for components, but the company is believed to have been the only partner who could produce Retina displays for the third-generation iPad at launch earlier this year.

The wedge between the two companies has been driven by competition in the smartphone and tablet markets. Last April, Apple was first to sue, when it accused Samsung of copying the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad, and the two companies are now involved in a number of lawsuits that span around the world.

LG has been a major supplier of LCD displays to Apple over the years, and in 2009 the two companies reached a US$500 million deal for the supply of flat-panel displays through the year 2013. But the relationship between the two companies may have strained late last year, when LG was said to have lost its status as the leading display maker for Apple’s iPad 2, when a batch of LCD shipments were reportedly plagued with quality issues.

Going forward, Sharp is also expected to be a major partner with Apple for screen production. Last year, reports indicated Apple had invested in a Sharp plant in Japan, while this year Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn bought a 10 percent stake in Sharp to help boost its LCD business.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple requests developers focus on graphics for recent Mac OS X 10.7.5 beta

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Date: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, 06:34
Category: News, Software

The Retina Display is king for Apple, so graphics have to be pretty high up there these days.

Per AppleInsider, Apple supplied its development community with the first beta of OS X 10.7.5, its forthcoming maintenance update to the Lion operating system.

Sources familiar with the beta issued on Tuesday indicated that it is identified as build 11G15. Those testing the software have reportedly been asked to concentrate on testing graphics performance and quality along with networking reliability and performance.

Another area of focus is said to be the importing, editing or viewing of images and media. The delta download is reportedly a 937-megabyte installer, while the combo update weighs in at 1.87 gigabytes.

Details on what exactly has been changed in the first beta of OS X 10.7.5 remain unknown, but any fixes or updates are likely to be relatively insignificant with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion set to hit the Mac App Store in July.

The most recent update to Lion, OS X 10.7.4, was publicly released in early May. It included a fix for a potential security flaw in FileBug.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft targets iPad, unveils Surface tablet

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Date: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 07:56
Category: Hardware, News

A little competition never hurt anyone.

Per Engadget, Microsoft debuted its Surface Windows 8 tablet on Monday at a last-minute special event in Los Angeles, marking the tech monolith’s entrance into the iPad-dominated tablet market.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, showed off the tablet computer based on the company’s new Windows 8 operating system he called “the new Surface,” according to the report.

After giving a brief history of Microsoft-branded hardware like the venerable mouse and keyboard, Ballmer introduced the new device, likening it to the Xbox 360 in that it has a strong synthesis of software and hardware that push each other to new limits.

Microsoft’s President of the Windows and Windows Live Division Steven Sinofsky proceeded to show off the 10.6-inch multi-touch tablet, which features a magnesium enclosure called “VaporMg” with built-in stand, dual MIMO arrays, an optically-bonded proprietary display with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2 and a variety of input ports. The unit is also coated with vapor-deposited magnesium (PVD) to avoid scratching.

Surface will be sold in two distinct incarnations with one touting an Ivy Bridge i5 processor while the other will feature a low-energy NVIDIA-made ARM cortex CPU. The Intel model, called Surface for Windows 8 Pro, will weigh in at 1.9lbs at 13.5mm thick and feature a 10.6-inch 1920-by-1080 pixel ClearType full HD display. Input and output for the higher-tier Surface is handled by USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort and an microSDXC card reader.

The thinner ARM cortex version will be released under the Surface for Windows RT moniker and will come in at a trim 1.5lbs and 9.8mm thick but bumps specs down to a 1280-by-720 pixel screen. Handling the heat put out by the Intel chip is what Microsoft calls “perimeter venting” or a series of integrated vents encircling the edge of the bezel, which itself is beveled. While the Windows RT model doesn’t carry the high-powered connectivity as its bigger brother, it still manages a microSD slot, USB 2.0 and Micro HD Video.



Accessories for both units include the “Touch Cover” which is a full multi-touch keyboard complete with arrow buttons that changes the color of Surface’s screen to the color of the cover when attached. Much like Apple’s Smart Cover, the Touch Cover also turns the device on and off presumably through use of magnets. The Surface “Type Cover” accessory brings physical switch-type keys and a clickable trackpad, though the part adds 5mm of girth to the tablet.

The Surface supports palm-blocking Digital Ink technology and can mark up PDFs and other supported documents with a digitizer, though the feature seems to be limited to the Intel model.

It is unclear what company is manufacturing the tablet for Microsoft, though the product itself looks to be a branded device with prominent Windows logos adorning the screen bezel and the back kick-stand.

The debut of the ARM-based Windows RT version of Surface is set to coincide with the launch of Windows 8 and will be available in 32GB and 64GB flavors. Pricing will be in-line with competing ARM tablets. The Intel Ivy Bridge i5-based Windows Pro Surface is slated to follow about three months later and will be sold in 64GB and 128GB capacities with prices comparable to Ultrabook PCs.

Full video of the event can be found here and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases external Mac OS X 10.7.5 beta to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 06:28
Category: News, Software

You can’t knock a good operating system beta.

Per AppleInsider, work on OS X 10.7.5, the next performance and maintenance update for Lion, is far enough along that Apple is preparing to issue a preview of the software to its developers for testing.

A pre-release build of OS X 10.7.5 is set to be released to a limited number of members of Apple’s development community in the coming days, sources familiar with the software indicated on Monday. Public testing among all members of the Apple Developer Connection will likely begin soon after.

Details on what fixes or updates OS X 10.7.5 might include remain unknown. But any changes are likely to be relatively insignificant, as Apple is gearing up to launch the next major version of its Mac operating system, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, next month.

The last update to Lion, OS X 10.7.4, was publicly released in early May. It included a fix for a potential security flaw in FileBug.

OS X 10.7.4 also quietly added support for Retina display Macs, more than a month before Apple officially announced its next-generation MacBook Pro with 15-inch Retina display. That notebook began shipping last week with OS X 10.7.4 installed, featuring high-resolution support for icons and native applications.

Apple announced last week that Mountain Lion will arrive on the Mac App Store in July for US$19.99. Those who purchase a qualifying Mac between now and the date Mountain Lion hits the App Store will be eligible for a free upgrade to OS X 10.8.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the beta and have any feedback to offer, please let us know via the comments.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 firmware upgrade

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Date: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, 06:59
Category: Hardware, News, Software

On Tuesday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 firmware upgrade for its Thunderbolt-equipped Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The update, a 506 kilobyte download, adds support for the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter.

In addition to the direct download, Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 is available through Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature. The update requires a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

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

Retina Display MacBook Pro battery more expensive than previous iterations

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Date: Monday, June 18th, 2012, 09:15
Category: battery, Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

Apple’s new Retina Display MacBook Pro may be snazzy, but it isn’t cheap to fix if the battery fails.

Per Macworld, the battery on the current model has been priced at 54 percent more expensive than the previous iteration. Apple updated the pricing list for MacBook battery replacements, showing that servicing the new model’s battery will run US$199 before tax.

Some MacBook Pro notebooks with built-in batteries require a replacement battery two or three years down the line. Since all of Apple’s latest models do not feature a user-serviceable battery slot, you have to take it to the Genius Bar to get it serviced. This costs US$129 for 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros, but the Retina MacBook Pro features a higher price.

A replacement battery for the Retina MacBook Pro will cost you US$199 before taxes, Apple’s price list shows—54 percent more than that of previous models. In comparison, the cost of servicing the battery on the now-retired 17-inch MacBook Pro, which featured a larger battery than its smaller notebook counterparts, was US$179.

iFixit’s teardown of the US$2200 15-in Retina MacBook Pro gives a few hints on the reasoning behind the price increase. The battery has 95 watt hours (Wh) at 10.95 V, compared to last year’s 77.5 Wh battery, and instead of being screwed into the machine, it’s glued into place, making it more difficult to replace.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.