Developer cites OS X 10.8.1 beta as substantially improving Apple notebook battery life

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Date: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012, 17:54
Category: battery, News, Software

Come the OS X 10.8.1 update, your Apple notebook’s battery life could improve significantly.

Per Softpedia, substantial improvements were discovered by an unnamed developer after installing OS X 10.8.1. Previously, the developer’s MacBook was reportedly showing a battery life of 4 hours and 5 minutes after a full charge, but installing the beta software increased the advertised battery life to over 8 hours.

The details suggest Apple is working to fix battery life issues that some users have reported since the release of Mountain Lion on the Mac App Store in July.

Those complaints were later validated by a series of tests conducted by Ars Technica. Their unscientific data showed that Apple’s new operating system drains batteries significantly faster than its predecessor, OS X 10.7 Lion.

While Apple has not publicly commented on any battery issues with Mountain Lion, a number of users who have posted on Apple’s official community forum have said that company representatives reached out to them and obtained system information in an attempt to fix the issue.

Only certain MacBook models have been reported by users to experience the battery drain issue introduced with the launch of Mountain Lion. Some others have said that their battery life actually increased since updating to OS X 10.8.

The first pre-release beta of OS X 10.8.1 was supplied to Apple’s developer community earlier this month. Documentation accompanying Build 12B13 revealed it aims to correct a display noise issue when using Thunderbolt, but made no mention of battery life.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VirtualBox updated to 4.1.20

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Date: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012, 06:20
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.1.20. The new version, a 101.3 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

- VMM: fixed a crash under rare circumstances for VMs running without hardware virtualization.

- VMM: fixed a code analysis bug for certain displacement instructions for VMs running without hardware virtualization.

- VMM: fixed an interpretion bug for TPR read instructions under rare conditions (AMD-V only).

- Snapshots: fixed a crash when restoring an old snapshot when powering off a VM (bugs #9604, #10491).

- VBoxSVC: be more tolerant against environment variables with strange encodings (bug #8780).

- VGA: fixed wrong access check which might cause a crash under certain conditions.

- NAT: final fix for crashes under rare conditions (bug #10513).

- Virtio-net: fixed the problem with receiving of GSO packets in Windows XP guests causing packet loss in host-to-VM transfers.

- HPET: several fixes (bugs #10170, #10306).

- Clipboard: disable the clipboard by default for new VMs.

- BIOS: the PCI BIOS was not properly detected with the chipset type set to ICH9 (bugs #9301, #10327).

- Mac OS X hosts: adaptions to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

- Linux Installer: fixes for Gentoo Linux (bug #10642).

- Linux guests: fixed mouse integration on Fedora 17 guests (bug #2306).

- Linux Additions: compile fixes for RHEL/CentOS 6.3 (bug #10756).

- Linux Additions: compile fixes for Linux 3.5-rc1 and Linux 3.6-rc1 (bug #10709).

- Solaris host: fixed a guru meditation while allocating large pages (bug #10600).

- Solaris host: fixed possible kernel panics while freeing memory.

- Solaris Installer: fixed missing icon for menu and desktop shortcuts.

VirtualBox 4.1.20 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.

smcFanControl updated to 2.4, Mountain Lion, Retina support among changes included

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Date: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012, 06:49
Category: News, Software

On Tuesday, software developer eidac released version 2.4 of its smcFanControl utility, a free program that allows users to adjust the minimum fan speed of their Intel-based Macs, thereby allowing the unit to potentially run cooler.

The new version, a 768 kilobyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Support for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion / Gatekeeper.

- Support for Retina Macbook Pro.

- smcFanControl is now a 64 Bit application.

- AutoStart works now without AppleScript.

- Support for Mac OS X 10.4 is deprecated.

- The source code for smcFanControl is now available at Github.

smcFanControl 2.4 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

Apple patent allows potential automatic skipping of commercials for radio, television devices

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Date: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012, 06:23
Category: News, Patents

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This could be interesting.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent that allows users to skip unwanted audio and video broadcast segments such as commercials with on-device content like songs, podcasts or other media, possibly hinting at technology headed to the battle for the living room.

Apple’s aptly titled U.S. Patent No. 8,249,497 for “Seamless switching between radio and local media” describes a system in which a mobile device will automatically switch between broadcast content and stored media to offer the user a type of customized content consumption experience.

With the new patent, a device will allow a user listening to content from a radio station or “non-radio media or content sources” to skip past the sections they aren’t interested in, filling the gap with on-board media instead. Also of interest is that commercials are among the types of content which can be replaced by stored media.

Covered under the invention’s umbrella are broadcasts from a “radio stream provided over any communications network,” while the stored media can include content saved in a device’s memory or from a streaming host device.

From the patent background:
“A user, however, may not be interested in every media item provided as part of a broadcast stream. For example, a user may not like a particular song broadcast by a radio station, or may not like a particular segment of a talk radio station (e.g., the user does not like the topic or guest of the segment). As another example, a user may not be interested in content originally generated by sources other than the media source (e.g., advertisement content). Because the user has no control over the media broadcast, the user can typically only tune to a different media broadcast, or listen to or consume the broadcast content that is not of interest.”

By using metadata from assets like Radio Data System (RDS) data, broadcast listings or published third-party schedules, a device can “determine when an upcoming broadcast segment or media item is not of interest to the user.” When such an event is detected, the device will seamlessly switch to stored media until the unwanted content is completed. Also included as methods of discerning what a user may or may not want to consume are analysis of audio or video from the source, akin to current iOS apps Shazam or IntoNow.

As far as calculating what a user likes or dislikes, the patent employs comparisons of media items to generate a preference profile, much like the system in place with apps like Pandora. For example, a user can “like” or “dislike” a song and the corresponding metadata will then be included in their preference profile. In another embodiment, the device can keep track of a user’s content consumption habits and make guesses as to what they would like in their preference profile. The metadata can be specific media items, such as artists, songs and genres, as well as specific types of media.

After the system identifies that an upcoming segment is outside of the preference profile’s parameters, the device can look for an appropriate replacement from stored media to play instead. The patent notes that a “relevance algorithm” can be used to keep the stored media in line with content from the broadcast stream. To keep the experience consistent, the device can either monitor the broadcast stream to choose an opportune time to switch away from stored media playback, or buffer the broadcast stream for later consumption.

Seemingly, Apple is proposing a way to not only transform radio listening, but also television broadcasts. While not specifically noted in the patent and mentioned here only for purposes of discussion, the system could be tweaked for cable which would lend itself nicely to the set-top box Apple is rumored to be shopping around to U.S. providers. Insiders say the cloud-based device is meant to blur the line between live and on-demand television.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.