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Symantec estimates Flashback trojan could have netted authors $10,000 a day during its peak

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Date: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012, 09:58
Category: News, security, Software

Ok, so maybe crime DOES pay…

Per Symantec’s company blog, the malware known as “Flashback” that was believed to have infected hundreds of thousands of Macs may have paid out as much as US$10,000 a day to its authors.

The estimate comes from Symantec, which said in a post to its official blog that the primary motivation behind the malware was money. The Flashback Trojan includes an ad-clicking component that will load itself into the three major browsers for Mac — Safari, Firefox and Chrome — and generate revenue for the attackers.

“Flashback specifically targets queries made on Google and, depending on the search query, may redirect users to another page of the attacker’s choosing, where they receive revenue from the click,” Symantec explained.

Peering into the Trojan’s code, the security firm found a redirected URL that generates the authors of the code 8 cents per click. If a user conducts a Google search, Flashback will “hijack” the ad click from Google, taking money away from the search giant and granting “untold sums” to the authors of the Trojan.

A previous analysis of a different Trojan found that a botnet with just 25,000 infections could generate up to US$450 per day. At its peak, the Flashback Trojan was estimated to have infected 600,000 Macs worldwide, which means the authors could have earned as much as US$10,000 per day.

The presence of Flashback has greatly diminished since Apple released a series of software updates last month aimed at squashing the malware, including a Java update and a separate removal tool.

The Flashback Trojan was first discovered by another security firm, Intego, last September. The software attempts to trick users into installing it by appearing as Adobe’s Flash Player installer package.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you haven’t downloaded and installed Apple’s anti-flashback removal tool via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, there’s no time like the present.

Skype iOS app updated to 4.0

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Date: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012, 06:29
Category: News, Software

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Let’s face it: updates never hurt.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Skype has released version 4.0 of its app for iPad and iPhone. The new version lets you pre-position your video preview as you like, provides automatic restarts crashes and offers improved accessibility and overall stability along with some minor UI improvements and bug fixes.

The version change can be found for both Skype for iPhone/iPod touch and Skype for iPad.

Skype 4.0 for iOS requires iOS 4.3 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.

Google Chrome updated to 18.0.1025.168

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Date: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012, 06:04
Category: News, Software

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Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 18.0.1025.168 for the Mac. The new version, a 35.4 megabyte download, offers the following changes:

– Security and bug fixes.

Google Chrome 18.0.1025.168 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.

Mozilla releases Thunderbird 12.0.1 update

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Date: Monday, April 30th, 2012, 11:46
Category: News, Software

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Mozilla.org, creators of the Firefox web browser, has just released version 12.0.1 of Thunderbird, its free e-mail client. The new program, an 34.4 megabyte download, sports the following fixes and new features:

– Fix various issues relating to new mail notifications and filtering on POP3 based accounts.

– Fixes an occasional startup crash seen in TB 12.0.

– Fixes an issue with corrrupted message bodies when using move mail.

Thunderbird 3.1.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

If you’ve played with the new version and have any feedback, positive or negative, let us know.

Apple launches third-gen iPad in India, eight more countries

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Date: Friday, April 27th, 2012, 07:06
Category: iPad, News

If you’ve got a popular item, make sure it gets in the hands of people who want it.

Per The Mac Observer, Applelaunched sales of its third generation iPad in nine more countries on Friday. The new release is part of Apple’s fastest iPad rollout so far, and includes Israel, India, and South Africa.

The other countries in Friday’s iPad launch include Columbia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, and Thailand.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple updates HP, Samsung drivers for Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7 operating systems

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Date: Friday, April 27th, 2012, 07:15
Category: News, Software

You just can’t beat a good print driver update.

Late Thursday, Apple released version 2.9 of its HP printer drivers.

The updated driver provides updated support for HP’s entire line of printers, scanners, fax machines, and multi-function machinery when connecting to a Mac running OS X 10.6 or later. The update is available as a 524.8 MB download download from Apple’s Support website.

The company also released version 2.4 of its Samsung printers drivers for Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7. The new drivers offer updated support for Samsung’s base of printers, scanners, fax machines, and multi-function peripherals and are available as a 27.6 megabyte download from Apple’s support website.

The updates can also be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve installed the update and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

VirtualBox updated to 4.1.14

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Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2012, 15:21
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.1.14. The new version, a 91.5 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

– Network: fixed the problem with packets larger than MTU-4 when PCnet or PRO/1000 was bridged to certain types of adapters on OS X hosts (bug #3783).

– NAT: fixed a segfault under rare circumstances.

– 3D Support: fixed Windows WDDM video driver crash for SMP guests (bugs #10200, #10331).

– Windows Guest Additions, VRDP: fixed occasional text corruption (bug #3001).

VirtualBox 4.1.14 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 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.

SpamSieve updated to 2.9.1

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Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2012, 09:58
Category: News, Software

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Michael Tsai’s must-have shareware program, SpamSieve, has just been updated to version 2.9.1. The new version, a 9.1 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and improvements:

– Added support for Microsoft Outlook 2011 SP 2 (a.k.a. 14.2.x). If SpamSieve can detect that you were using Outlook 2011 before, and that SP 2 has been installed, SpamSieve will auto-update its scripts automatically. Otherwise, you can choose Install Outlook Scripts from the SpamSieve menu. Either way, the SpamSieve rules in Outlook will continue to work without modification.

– SpamSieve now tries to detect whether its Apple Mail plug-in is damaged and auto-heal the installed copy if necessary.

– If there’s an error updating SpamSieve’s Apple Mail plug-in, it now reports more information to try to diagnose the problem.

– If the Apple Mail plug-in detects that it’s damaged, it will alert the user to download and install a fresh copy.

– SpamSieve now checksums the Outlook script files (both the installed and built-in copies) to detect whether they are damaged.

– Made a change to eliminate a particular cause of false positives for some users.

– SpamSieve no longer triggers Mac OS X’s “accept incoming network connections” firewall dialog.

– Added some exception guards to work around bugs in the Growl SDK.

– When an unexpected error occurs and no stack trace is available, SpamSieve will now try to report the approximate location.

– Improved the What information should I include when I report a problem? section of the manual.

SpamSieve is available for a US$30 registration fee and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run. The new version can either be downloaded directly from the web site or brought up to the current version via the program’s built-in update feature.

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

Recent patent application shows Apple’s interest in improving brightness controls on OLED screens

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Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2012, 06:00
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent applications that show where things might be going.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple has apparently proposed a way of improving brightness control on organic light emitting diode displays.

One of the key advantages of OLED is that, unlike LCD, it does not employ a backlight to illuminate the screen. While this can lead to superior picture quality and improved battery life, it can also make adjusting the brightness of the screen more difficult, Apple notes in a newly published patent application.

The filing, entitled “OLED Driving Technique,” explains that traditional LCD brightness is adjusted by simply increasing or decreasing the amount of light emitted by a backlight. But that’s not possible with an OLED display, as each pixel on an OLED screen emits light individually.

That means device makers must adjust the amount of power supplied to each OLED pixel, making it a far more complex endeavor to adjust brightness than an LCD display with a dedicated backlight.

“While increasing or decreasing the amount of power may increase or decrease the amount of light emitted by each OLED, the precise amount of light emitted by each OLED may vary according to nonlinear function,” Apple’s filing reads. “As such, many techniques for adjusting the brightness of OLED screens have conventionally involved performing complex calculations on image data to ensure that when a brightness-adjusted image id displayed on the OLED display, each pixel displays a proper color and brightness.”

In other words, the amount of light output by an individual OLED pixel varies nonlinearly with the amount of power supplied to the OLED pixel. As a result, increasing or decreasing the brightness does not directly correlate to simply increasing or decreasing the power supplied to each pixel.

Apple goes on to explain that dimming values must be extracted from image data on a system, and that data must then be converted to an analog OLED pixel brightness control signal. This complex method can consume system resources and reduce battery life, and it may also be incompatible with existing LCD brightness control mechanisms, requiring major changes to software that already drives LCD screens.

Apple’s proposed solutions aim to offer “efficient brightness control” with OLED screens. One described method would take image data and transform it into a “logarithmic domain,” from which a “dimming control value” could be subtracted.

“This resulting log-encoded dimmed image data may represent a darker version of the originally received image data,” the filing reads. “Thereafter, a pixel of the organic light emitting diode display may be driven based at least in part on the dimmed image data.”

In Apple’s method, image data could be converted in the data driver of an integrated circuit connected to the OLED screen. This data would be converted from a “framebuffer encoding” gamma-corrected color space to a logarithmic value.

“From this logarithmic value, a digital dimming control value may be subtracted rather than divided,” the filing states. “This dimmed logarithmic image data may be converted directly to an analog OLED pixel brightness control signal, without first being converted to a linear digital value, via a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) programmed to convert the logarithmic digital image data to the OLED pixel brightness control signal.”

Apple’s solution would enable simplified dimming of OLED, and would convert the data associated with adjusting brightness from digital to analog. But Apple’s method would do so with fewer bits, and would be less taxing on a mobile device like an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook.

The illustrations accompanying the application specifically show a MacBook Pro as a potential device that could utilize an OLED screen, although the filing notes that Apple’s method of controlling OLED brightness could be used on any device, from smartphones to television sets.

Apple has shown continued interest in OLED screens through patent filings, with one proposed invention last year that aimed to improve power efficiency of OLED screens. However, some industry watchers have said that OLED technology, and the production of OLED screens, are not yet mature enough to meet Apple’s standards and requirements.

The latest OLED filing, published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was originally submitted in October of 2010. It is credited to Ulrich T. Barnhoefer and Lee Yongman.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Onyx updated to 2.4.6b1

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Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2012, 05:51
Category: News, Software

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Onyx, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.4.6 beta 1. The new beta, a 16.5 megabyte download adds the following fixes and changes:

– New version integrates 3.7.11 of sqlite3.

– Changes the logo of login window.

– Modifies the automatic display delay of the Dock.

– Deleting the applications cache improved.

– Deleting the diagnostic reports improved.

– Emptying the Trash improved.

– Trash tab moved in the Cleaning pane.

– Clean Trash option in the Automation panel.

– Show/hide the warning when changing of file extension.

– Deleting the Apple Double files (Utilities pane).

– Some modifications and improvements.

– Help improved, updated, and reindexed.

Onyx 2.4.6b1 requires Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

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