Apple’s OS X 10.8.3 prompts use of discrete GPU in mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 08:42
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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There’s sort of a love/hate relationship with operating system updates, especially given the fact that you never quite know what’s going to change with your Apple hardware and how it performs after the fact.

To that end, the mighty Topher Kessler has written a terrific piece over on CNET as to Apple’s latest OS update for its mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks.

To this end, a number of the notebook’s owners noticed that after upgrading to OS X 10.8.3, their systems with dual graphics cards would automatically switch to using the more powerful discrete graphics chip regularly, even when using non-graphics intensive applications like Google Chrome, Dropbox, and Growl. This does not result in crashes or other interruptions in workflow, but it does increase the drain on the systems’ battery and result in a shorter working time when not connected to AC power.

The article then moves on to discuss how to ration battery power, how to drop back to OS X 10.7 if necessary and the new challenges for developers under these conditions.

It’s there, it’s good, so take a gander and let us know if you’ve seen anything like this with your mid-2010 MacBook Pro on your end.

Opera web browser updated to 12.15.1748

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:55
Category: News, security, Software

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It’s hard to knock a useful web browser update.

On Thursday, Opera Software released version 12.15.1748 of its web browser. The new version, a 20.3 megabyte download via MacUpdate, boasts the following fixes and changes:
– Fixed a moderately severe issue, as reported by Attila Suszter; details will be disclosed at a later date.

– Added safeguards against attacks on the RC4 encryption protocol.

– Fixed an issue where cookies could be set for a top-level domain.

Opera 12.15.1748 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

Recently published Apple patents show possible road to improved pedometer accuracy, possible health accessory

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:04
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent filings that show the useful stuff coming down the road.

Per AppleInsider, three filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday reveal Apple is working to improve the accuracy of pedometer readings when implemented in mobile devices, hinting that the company may be planning an entrance into the health accessory industry.

While Apple’s patents (1, 2, 3), each titled “Techniques for improved pedometer readings,” don’t specifically mention a wearable accessory, the technology detailed can easily be applied to such a device. Perhaps most interesting is that Apple filed three separate patent applications describing three different pedometer logging techniques, yet the company has yet to implement a first-party solution or product that leverages such technology.

Each filing looks to solve the same problem: pedometer accuracy. Current devices, even those specifically made to track a user’s steps, are not completely accurate due to hardware and software limitations. Apple’s invention hopes to rectify the situation through intelligent data collection and processing.

The patent applications start out by describing a pedometer, which is a device having motion sensing capabilities, such as a built-in accelerometer or gyroscope, that provides step count, running step count, distance traveled and other metrics. It is pointed out that the device described in some embodiments is not limited to one suitable for step detection, meaning the tech can be applied to smartphones and the like.

Conventional techniques detects steps using acceleration swing over a fixed threshold, but Apple’s invention uses adaptive threshold and frequency filtering to garner more accurate results. Frequency analysis can include fast Fourier transform (FFT) or other algorithms, while distance calibration can apply least squares simple regression, least squares multiple regression, or K-factor.

However, by using fixed threshold techniques, some steps may not be detected due to offsets or shifts in the accelerometer. For example, when a user of the device is running, the average acceleration of the device may be higher due to the greater acceleration of each footstep and the overall faster forward motion. Due to the higher offset of average acceleration during running measurements, some negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 threshold crossings may not be detected. For example, the negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 transition at point 94 in the graphed modulus 52 does not cross the 1 g threshold between peaks 92a and 90a. As a result, while peaks 92a and 90a may actually correspond to two steps (e.g., a left step and a right step), conventional threshold filtering techniques may detect only one step due to the lack of a negative to positive transition (e.g., point 94) crossing below the fixed 1 g threshold.

These methods allow for a finer set of data due that can conform more readily to changes in stride and a user’s personal physical attributes. On that point, a GUI is also implemented into which weight, height and other user specifics can be entered for processing with the given algorithms.

By using these advanced methods, a more accurate assessment of user motion can be tracked, consequently generating more accurate pedometer data.

The language goes on to detail the various algorithms and implementations of adaptive threshold and frequency filtering.

Third-party app makers have indeed created pedometer software that uses data from the iPhone’s built-in sensors to track steps taken and estimated distance traveled, but Apple itself has yet to launch such an asset. Furthermore, the invention seeks to improve upon existing techniques, suggesting the company is planning to implement the tech in a pedometer app, or possibly a wearable device like the much-rumored “iWatch.”

All three applications were filed for in September of 2011 and credit Yash Rohit Modi, Vinay Bethgiri Ganesh Dixit and Saurabh Gupta as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Parallels Desktop updated to 8.0.18483

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:38
Category: iMac, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Parallels released version 8.0.18483 of its Parallels Desktop virtualization software. The new update, a 320 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
– Better compatibility with new iMacs.

– Create Boot Camp virtual machines on new iMacs with 3 TB hard drives.

– Create virtual machines from the Boot Camp partition with Windows 8 installed.

– Support for Fedora 18.

– Fixed visual artifacts when changing screen resolution in a Windows 8 Pro virtual machine with more than 256 MB of video memory and nested virtualization enabled.

– Resolves an issue with the Command + click combination not opening links in new tabs in Windows browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.).

Parallels Desktop 8 retails for US$79.99 and requires a 64-bit Intel-based processor, Mac OS X 10.6.8 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.

OnyX updated to 2.6.8

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 06:08
Category: News, Software

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You can’t knock a helpful update.

OnyX, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.6.8. The new version, a 16.9 megabyte download via MacUpdate, adds the following fixes and changes:
– Deleting the Internet Cache improved.

– Deleting the Fonts Cache improved.

– Deleting the Recent Items improved.

– Bug corrected in the authenticate pane.

– Bug corrected when restoring the logo of Login window.

– Maintenance > Scripts pane improved.

– Help improved, corrected, and reindexed.

– New option: Show the Displays Extras menu with resolutions.

– New option: Show/hide shadow in window captures.

– New option: Show/hide the Reminders Debug menu.

– New option: Show/hide the Photo Booth Debug menu.

– New option: Lock/unlock the screen of automatically logged in user.

– New option: Show the dark menu bar in fullscreen mode.

– New version of sqlite3.

– Network Link Condition prefs pane updated to version 2.0.

– Misc. minor corrections.

OnyX 2.6.8 requires an Intel-based processor and OS X 10.8 or later to install and run.

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