Skype 5.11.0.33 public beta released

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Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 07:41
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Skype released a public beta (version 5.11.0.33) of its VoIP application. The new version, a 31.7 megabyte download via MacUpdate, offers the following fixes and changes:

– Sharing Instant Messages with friends on Messenger. You can now sign in with your Microsoft account (formerly Windows Live ID), and see presence as well as send and receive IM messages from your friends who are using Messenger, Xbox, Hotmail or Outlook.com.

– Improved Facebook integration. You can now sign in directly with your Facebook account, without needing to first create a Skype account.

– Different conversations can now be opened in separate windows by selecting this option in Preferences (General -> Open conversation in new window when I double-click in the sidebar).

– Link Microsoft and Facebook accounts to a Skype account. If you sign in with a Microsoft or Facebook account you will be offered the option to link your Skype account. If you choose the link option then Skype will display a combined list of friends. This is an area we are still working through so please let us know about your experience.

Skype 5.11.0.33 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

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

Apple to cover international LTE standards via three hardware variants

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 08:31
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

The iPhone 5 is en route.

And it looks like a nifty feat of engineering.

With the variety of different LTE frequency bands used by various carriers available globally, Apple will be making three versions of iPhone 5, with the potential for additional new models as Apple signs on other carriers according to AppleInsider.



Apple built a single, global model of the iPhone up until the beginning of 2011, when it introduced a CDMA-only iPhone 4 version compatible with Verizon. When it introduced iPhone 4S a year ago, Apple incorporated support for both GSM and CDMA networks, resulting in a “world phone,” albeit still locked by specific carriers.

The new iPhone 5 now comes in three LTE versions, all of which continue to support the global GSM/UMTS services of iPhone 4S (Quad Band 2G GSM/EDGE on 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, and Quad Band 3G UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA on 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) with new support for “4G” DC-HSDPA (which at up to 42Mbps is as fast as most carriers’ 4G LTE service). Only one of the three versions continues to support CDMA.

To cover its launch carriers’ LTE services, Apple has announced these three different models:

A North American GSM A1428 model for use on AT&T and Apple’s Canadian partners Bell/Virgin, Rogers/Fido and Telus/Kodo provides LTE support for bands 4 (AWS) and 17 (700b MHz) but not CDMA.

AWS-flavored LTE is exclusive to North America, where it was originally assigned for use as wireless cable. In both the US and Canada, it has been reassigned for mobile voice and data networks. While Canadian carriers used it for LTE deployments, T-Mobile acquired large portions of the U.S. rights to AWS and used it to build out its non-standard 3G UMTS service.

This is one significantly reason why AT&T wanted to acquire T-Mobile two years ago. After the U.S. government intervened, T-Mobile was left with its AWS 3G service incompatible with previous iPhones. It now plans to build out LTE service, although that won’t happen until next year, leaving it with the interim option of shifting its 2G GSM service to 3G/4G HSDPA in order to woo unlocked iPhone 4/4S/5 users (which it currently has in place in only a few markets).

A second, CDMA model A1429 will support Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA network in the U.S. and KDDI in Japan. In addition to the standard “EVDO rev A” 800 and 1900MHz support on previous CDMA iPhones, iPhone 5 now also supports the slightly faster and more efficient rev B on 2100MHz. Sprint and Verizon once considered upgrading to EVDO rev B before throwing their support behind 4G networks, but Japan’s KDDI does use rev B networks. CDMA carriers in India and Russia also support rev B.

More importantly, the CDMA iPhone 5 supports LTE Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz), 13 (700cMHz, used by Verizon) and 25 (1900MHz, used by Sprint). The first three bands overlap those used by Apple’s other carrier partners in Europe and Asia (but not AT&T/Canada), although the company also notes that “band support does not guarantee support on all LTE networks running on the same bands.”

Finally, a third model for the rest of the world supports GSM carriers that have added support for LTE on Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz).

This includes Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Everything Everywhere in the UK, Optus/Virgin and Telstra in Australia, Softbank in Japan, SK Telecom and KT in Korea, SmarTone in Hong Kong, and M1 and SingTel in Singapore.

There are several other global LTE carriers Apple could support, either with its existing models or new models, that the company hasn’t announced any deals with yet.

In Japan NTT DOCOMO uses Band 1, and a long list of other European carriers are deploying Band 3 LTE. T-Mobile, Cricket and Metro PCS use Band 4 (AWS) in the U.S., so these carriers could all apparently be supported by Apple’s existing models, given a carrier agreement.

Other carriers have deployed LTE Bands that none of Apple’s existing iPhone 5 versions support. A variety of carriers in Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland are all deploying Band 7 (2600 MHz), while others in Germany and Sweden are using Band 20 (800MHz), and a variety of Middle Eastern carriers have started building out Band 38 (2600MHz).

iPhone 5 is believed to use Qualcomm’s fifth generation MDM9615 baseband chip, which supports both FDD and TDD signaling technologies for LTE.

FDD or Frequency-Division Duplex signaling technology is used by CDMA and WCDMA/UMTS for most modern cellular systems, and is the technology most LTE providers will use, including the networks being built out by AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. Qualcomm owns most of the patents supporting CDMA and WCDMA technologies.

TDD or Time-Division Duplex is an alternative flavor of the LTE standard developed by China, and is being deployed in that country under the name TD-LTE. China developed its own TD-SCDMA and now TD-LTE to avoid paying Qualcomm’s patent royalties. By supporting both FDD and TDD technologies, Qualcomm’s chipset can enable a single device to work on a wide variety of 3G or 4G networks.

It’s not clear if Apple is supporting TDD-LTE (or China’s 3G TD-SCDMA) in its existing iPhone 5 versions. This would dictate whether a separate model would be needed to support LTE service in China and India. Apple’s partner Softbank initially built out TDD-LTE in Japan, but has since augmented its coverage with standard FDD-LTE.

However the MDM9615 does appear to be giving Apple support for new DC-HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev-B, making it likely that Apple’s existing iPhone 5 models will eventually make it to a wider selection of carriers. And even in areas with incompatible LTE networks, iPhone 5 will support very fast HSPA+ networks at similar speeds to today’s LTE deployments.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6 golden master to developer community

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 07:36
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

It’s six days from completion and the final, gold master version just went out the door.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has just seeded the mobile operating system’s golden master to developers, showing slight tweaks and performance enhancements to its first-party Maps app.

According to sources familiar with the progression of Maps in iOS 6, the recently-seeded GM has brought a number of changes to Apple’s first in-house mapping app including Flyover support for new cities like New York and Rome. The most recent version of Maps introduced Flyover data for a number of major international metropolitan cities, however New York was omitted for unknown reasons.

A major feature that sets Maps apart from rival products is its use of custom algorithms to fill in Flyover details like shrubbery and trees. The iOS 6 GM brings further improvements in this area, as zoomed images reveal smoother borders around foliage and advanced rendering that gives the appearance of “leaf-level” detail.

Unlike Google Maps’ StreetView, which blurs out license plates and faces, Apple looks to be employing an automated masking system that will leave only a “ghost image” of vehicles behind.

Finally, a small tweak to the UI comes in the “cityscape” icon, which takes the place of the “3D” asset when viewing areas that have Flyover data. The app also said to feel more sprightly than previous builds and more detail is apparent on certain rendered structures.

Apple’s Maps app will roll out as part of iOS 6 on Sept. 19.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve had a chance to play with the iOS 6 golden master, please let us know in the comments.

Apple posts video of iPhone 5/refreshed iPod models media event

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 07:48
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

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It’s the day after, there’s a new iPhone and new iPod models en route and Apple just posted the video of yesterday’s press event here if you’re interested.

So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, take a gander and let us know what your hopes, dreams and expectations of the new stuff are in the comments section.

VirtualBox updated to 4.2.0

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 07:42
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.2.0. The new version, a 96.6 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

New Features:
– Improved Windows 8 support, in particular many 3D-related fixes.

– GUI: VM groups (bug #288).

– GUI: expert mode for wizards.

– GUI: allow to alter some settings during runtime.

– Support for up to 36 network cards, in combination with an ICH9 chipset configuration (bug #8805).

– Resource control: added support for limiting network IO bandwidth; see the manual for more information (bug #3653).

– Added possibility to start VMs during system boot on Linux, OS X and Solaris; see the manual for more information (bug #950).

– Added experimental support for Drag’n’drop from the host to Linux guests. Support for more guests and for guest-to-host is planned. (bug #81).

– Added support for parallel port passthrough on Windows hosts.

– Enhanced API for controlling the guest; please see the SDK reference and API documentation for more information.

In addition, the following items were fixed and/or added:
– Mac OS X hosts: sign application and installer to avoid warnings on Mountain Lion.

– VMM: fixed a potential host crash triggered by shutting down a VM when another VM was running (only affected 32-bit hosts and 64-bit OS X hosts, 4.1 regression, bug #9897).

– VMM: fixed a potential host crash under a high guest memory pressure (seen with Windows 8 guests).

– VMM: improved VM context switch performance for Intel CPUs using nested paging.

– VMM: added support for FlushByASID features of AMD CPUs (Bulldozer and newer).

– VMM: fixed unreal mode handling on older CPUs with VT-x (gPXE, Solaris 7/8/9; bug #9941).

– VMM: fixed MP tables fixes for I/O APIC interrupt routing relevant for ancient SMP guests (e.g. old OS/2 releases).

– VMM: support recent VIA CPUs (bug #10005).

– VMM: fixed handling of task gates if VT-x/AMD-V is disabled.

– VMM: page fusion fixes.

– GUI: network operations manager.

– GUI: allow taking screenshots of the current VM window content (bug #5561).

– GUI: allow automatically sorting of the VM list.

– GUI: allow starting of headless VMs from the GUI.

– GUI: allow reset, shutdown and power off from the Manager window.

– GUI: allow to globally limit the maximum screen resolution for guests.

– GUI: show the full medium part on hovering the list of recently used ISO images.

– GUI: do not create additional folders when a new machine has a separator character in its name (bug #6541).

– GUI: don’t crash on terminate if the settings dialog is still open (bug #9973).

– GUI: consider scaled DPI values when display fonts on Windows hosts (bug #9864).

– GUI: if a bridged network interface cannot be found, don’t refuse to start the VM but allow the user to change the setting immediately.

– Snapshots: fixed a crash when restoring an old snapshot when powering off a VM (bugs #9364, #9604, #10491).

– Clipboard: disable the clipboard by default for new VMs (see the manual for more information). It can be enabled at any time using the VM menu.

– Settings: sanitize the name of VM folders and settings file (bug #10549).

– Settings: allow to store the iSCSI initiator secret encrypted.

– NAT: improvements for the built-in TFTP server (bugs #7385, #10286).

– NAT: fixed memory leak when disabling the NAT engine (bug #10801).

– E1000: 802.1q VLAN support (bug #10429).

– Storage: implemented burning of audio CDs in passthrough mode.

– Storage: fixed audio CD passthrough for certain media players.

– Storage: implemented support for discarding unused image blocks through TRIM for SATA and IDE and UNMAP for SCSI when using VDI images.

– Storage: added support for QED images.

– Storage: added support for QCOW (full support for v1 and readonly support for v2 images).

– Storage: added readonly support for VHDX images.

– USB: don’t crash if a USB device is plugged or unplugged when saving or loading the VM state (SMP guests only).

– Solaris additions: added support for X.org Server 1.11 and 1.12.

– Solaris additions: switched to using an in-kernel mouse driver.

– Windows hosts: no need to recreate host-only adapters after a VirtualBox update.

– Windows Additions: fixed memory leak in VBoxTray (bug #10808).

VirtualBox 4.2.0 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 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.

Apple releases iTunes 10.7 update

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 06:42
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Nano, iPod shuffle, iPod Touch, News, Software

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On Wednesday, Apple released version 10.7 of its iTunes multimedia/jukebox application. The new version, a 165 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

– Adds support for iOS 6 running on compatible iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch models.

– Also adds support for the latest iPod nano and iPod shuffle models.

iTunes 10.7 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

Apple announces 7th-gen iPod nano, units to go on sale in October

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Date: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 11:41
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, News

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The new stuff is rolling in today.

Per 9to5Mac, in addition to announcing the iPhone 5 today, the company announced a completely refreshed 7th generation iPod nano sporting a larger display, Bluetooth, Home button, and Lightning connector. The new Nano is also the thinnest yet at just 5.4mm, includes play/pause, forward/back physical buttons in addition to an iPhone-style Home button. and comes in seven colors, and has the longest battery life of any Nano with up to 30 hours of music playback.

Other features include an FM tuner with live pause, built-in pedometer, and a 38% thinner frame over the previous generation.

The new nanos will be available for US$149 in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple announces September 19th release date for iOS 6

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Date: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 10:41
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

iOS 6 is almost here.

Just wait a week.

On Wednesday, Apple Senior VP of iOS Software Scott Forstall announced that the next major update to Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 6, will be available for the public to download and install in one week, on Wednesday, September 19th.

iOS 6 will be available for the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, new iPad, iPad 2 and iPod touch. The OS update launches two days before the iPhone 5 is set to debut.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google releases Picasa 3.9.11.6 update

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Date: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 10:47
Category: News, Software

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On Wednesday, software giant Google released Picasa 3.9.11.6, the latest version of its photo organization program for the Mac. Once installed, Picasa imports (without moving or copying) photos from the iPhoto library as well as other folders and external hard drives on your Mac. The program also includes assorted editing tools for straightening, text generation, red eye removal, collage creation and Photoshop-like effects and adjustments. The new version, a 33.9 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

– Fixed Sync/upload to re-upload on image size or metadata changes.

– Fixed reading jpg files saved by Gimp.

– Fixed Reading some png files with metadata errors.

– Fixed some errors storing faces in XMP data.

– “Save as” and “Save a Copy” are now re-enabled when switching away from two-up AA mode.

– The size option for uploads is now saved in the album data.

Picasa 3.9.11.6 requires 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 announces iPhone 5, handset to go on sale September 21st

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Date: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 10:21
Category: iPhone, News

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The Apple online store is being updated right now.

And for good reason.

At long last, Apple on Wednesday unveiled its iPhone 5 handset. Per Macworld, the new device features a taller screen, a new dock connector port, LTE support, and other changes.

The new handset, which is now 7.6mm thin and weighs 112 grams, now incorporates a 4-inch display that offers 326 pixels per inch and 1136 x 640 resolution.

Apps that aren’t updated don’t stretch or scale but will display letterboxed on the iPhone, with black borders surrounding the centered app.

The iPhone 5 offers 44 percent more color saturation than the iPhone 4S, Schiller said, and because the touch sensors are integrated right into the display, it’s 30 percent thinner, with sharper imagery, and less glare in sunlight.

New to the iPhone 5 is LTE, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA support. That’s on top of the GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, and HSPA that the iPhone 4S offered. Apple VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said that with LTE, the iPhone 5 can achieve a “theoretical maximum downlink of up to 100Mbps.”

Schiller explained that the iPhone 5 uses one baseband chip for voice and data and a single radio chip. The new phone also improves upon the iPhone 4S’s dynamic antenna, Schiller said, improving its ability to automatically switch to different networks as appropriate.

LTE partners for the iPhone 5 include Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon in the U.S, and Rogers, Fido, Bell, Telus, and more in Canada. Schiller said there are “plenty” of LTE partners in Asia, Australia, the UK, and Germany, with lots of DC-HSDPA support in Europe as well.

The iPhone 5 also gains better Wi-Fi, with support for 802.11 a/b/g/n. The 802.11n standard is 2.4GHz and dual channel 5GHz, up to 150 Mbps, Schiller said.

The processor in the iPhone 5 is the brand new Apple A6, which is twice as fast at CPU and graphics processing compared to the A5 that drove the iPhone 4S, Schiller said. It’s also 22 percent smaller than its predecessor, freeing up more space inside the iPhone, and making it more energy efficient to boot. Schiller said that everything—launching apps, viewing attachments, loading music—would be twice as fast as before.

Schiller explained that Apple wanted “to match the battery life of the 4S in a thinner and lighter design” for the iPhone 5. The company ended up exceeding that battery life; the iPhone 5 will offer eight hours of 3G talk time and browsing and LTE browsing, ten hours of Wi-Fi browsing, ten hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 225 hours of standby time.

The iPhone 5’s camera sports an eight megapixel sensor, 3264 by 2448 pixel images. It’s backside illuminated, with a hybrid IR filter, five-element lens, and a fast f/2.4 aperture. And the camera is 25 percent smaller than the iPhone 4S’s camera. The camera also includes a dynamic low-light mode, which can sense low light and combine elements for two f-stops greater.

The camera also includes, for the first time on an iPhone, a sapphire lens cover, which Schiller said would protect the lens and make images cleaner and sharper.

The A6 chip includes a new image signal processor, with spatial noise reduction and filtering to improve photographs. And the camera’s now 40 percent faster, too.

Also new in the iPhone 5’s camera arsenal is Panorama. You hold the iPhone vertically and sweep your scene; the app tells you at what speed to move. “Even if you’re not perfectly stable,” or if movement artifacts are introduced, Schiller said, the software can compensate in the final image.

Video performance is improved, too. The iPhone 5 offers 1080p HD video, improved video stabilization, face detection for up to ten faces, and can take photos while you’re recording video. The front-facing camera is now a FaceTime HD 720p HD camera with backside illumination, a significant improvement over the iPhone 4S’s VGA-quality front-facing camera.

The iPhone 5 includes three separate microphones, Schiller said: One on the front, one on the back, and one on the bottom. They improve noise cancellation and voice recognition.

The speaker gets improved, too. It now includes five magnets in its transducer, with better frequency response and better sound—while being 20 percent smaller than the speaker in the iPhone 4S. The earpiece is now noise-canceling, too, Schiller said.

With some carriers, the iPhone 5 will support wideband audio. In a typical cell phone call, the frequency of data in your voice is compressed around the midrange, Schiler said. But that doesn’t sounded entirely natural. Wideband audio fills up more of the frequency spectrum to make your voice sound more normal. Schiller said 20 carriers will support the technology at launch, and didn’t mention any U.S. carriers that would.

If you wondered as to whether Apple would adopt a new connector type to replace the Dock connector, the answer is “yes”. The iPhone 5 abandons the familiar 30-pin dock connector port, which first appeared with the original iPod in 2003. In its place is a smaller port, which Apple calls Lightning.

The 8-signal Lightning connector is all-digital, with an adaptive interface and improved durability. It’s reversible (meaning you can orient it either way, like a MagSafe adapter), and it’s 80 percent smaller than the connector it replaces.

Schiller announced that Apple would offer a 30-pin-to-Lightning connector, but didn’t mention pricing.

The iPhone 5 will come in an all black model, and a white model with a bright silver aluminum finish.

The iPhone 5 will be available September 21 in the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with pre-orders starting on September 14. It will retail for US$199 for 16GB, US$299 for 32GB, and US$399 for 64GB—the same pricing as the iPhone 4S that preceded it. The iPhone 4S drops to US$99; and the iPhone 4 is now the free, entry-level iPhone. All those prices require two-year commitments.

The iPhone 5 will be available in 20 more countries a week later, and in 100 countries over 240 carrier partners by year’s end.