Adobe releases Flash Player 10.2.152.21 update

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Date: Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011, 06:36
Category: News, Software

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You may love or hate Flash Player, but updated versions are never a bad thing.

Late Tuesday, Adobe released Flash Player 10.2.1521 for Mac OS X, a 7.6 megabyte download via MacUpdate. The new version functions essentially as a pre-release to version 10.2 and includes the following fixes and changes:

- General stability fixes.

- Additional audio and video fixes.

- Stage Video hardware acceleration – A new method for video playback in Flash Player allows developers to leverage complete hardware acceleration of the video rendering pipeline, enabling best-in-class playback performance. Stage Video can decrease processor usage by up to 85% and enables higher frame rates, reduced memory usage, and greater pixel fidelity and quality.

- Internet Explorer 9 hardware accelerated rendering support – Flash Player takes advantage of hardware accelerated graphics in Internet Explorer 9, utilizing hardware rendering surfaces to improve graphics performance and enable seamless composition.

- Native custom mouse cursors – Developers can define custom native mouse cursors, enabling user experience enhancements and improving performance.

- Support for full screen mode with multiple monitors – Full screen content will remain in full-screen on secondary monitors, allowing users to watch full-screen content while working on another display.

- On Mac computers, hardware decoding of H.264 video in Flash Player is available with Mac OS X 10.6.4 and later on hardware supported by the Mac OS Video Decode Acceleration Framework (such as the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M, and GeForce GT 330M). Whether hardware decoding will engage for a specific video is determined by the Mac OS Video Decode Acceleration Framework.

The full notes of the new version can be found here and Flash Player 10.2.152.21 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

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

Intel confirms SATA controller chip flaw, may delay MacBook Pro refresh

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Date: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011, 05:30
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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If Apple’s notebook refresh is taking a bit longer than you’d like, it might just be Intel’s fault.

Earlier Monday, Intel acknowledged that a supporting chipset for the next-generation Core processors contained a flaw in the Serial-ATA (SATA) controller. The bug can cause poor hard drive performance or even make the drive invisible to the system.

Per Computerworld, Intel said it has stopped shipments of the flawed chipsets and retooled the chipset. It will begin shipping the fixed version late next month, and said that it “expects full volume recovery in April.”

The design gaffe could effect Apple’s next MacBook Pro refresh if the notebook line is to get new processors based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, as many speculated last month.

According to Kevin Krewell, a senior analyst with the Linley Group (the publishers of Microprocessor Report) the mobile version of the supporting chipset may have been flawed.

In an e-mail reply to Macworld UK’s questions, Krewell pointed out a pair of Intel documents that note the mobile versions of the chipset use the same 6Gbps and 3Gbps ports as those used in the desktop versions.

According to Anandtech.com, the flaw affects only the 3Gbps ports — the chipsets’ SATA controller also offers faster-speed 6Gbps ports — making the likelihood of an impact on notebook makers even higher.

While the signs point to a problem for Apple, analysts split today on whether a MacBook Pro refresh would be delayed.

“It could mean a delay of two to three weeks,” said Martin Reynolds, a vice president with Gartner, assuming Apple intended to launch new MacBook Pros in March or even April.

Dan Olds, a senior analyst with Portland, Ore.-based Gabriel Consulting Group, disagreed.

“I don’t think Intel has shipped any [Sandy Bridge] chipsets for mobile yet,” Olds said. “I haven’t heard any chatter from the major players [about upcoming notebooks that use the chipsets], like Dell, for example.”

The unknown, of course, is when Apple was planning to launch revamped MacBook Pro models that rely on the Sandy Bridge architecture, and thus, the flawed chipsets.

Most close Apple watchers have been expecting an imminent refresh. Although Apple doesn’t hew to a set schedule for upgrades, the last time it boosted the MacBook Pro was in April 2010, nearly 300 days ago.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 4.2.6 before Feb. 10th CDMA iPhone release

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Date: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011, 05:38
Category: iPhone, News

Eight days before the release of the CDMA-compatible iPhone, Apple has posted a version of iOS 4.2.6, possibly for journalists who have reportedly received review units.

Per AppleInsider, iOS 4.2.6, available as a direct download from Apple, is listed as for iPhone3,3, which is the identifier for the CDMA version of iPhone 4 coming to the Verizon network on Feb. 10. The 652 MB download is labeled as Build 8E200.

Demo versions of the Verizon iPhone at the carrier’s Jan. 11 press event were running iOS 4.2.5, suggesting that Apple has since made several minor changes to the software.

Apple issued a beta build of version 4.3, the next major update to iOS, earlier this month. The pre-release software contained support for several new multi-touch gestures, as well as GSM support for the Personal Hotspot feature included in iOS 4.2.6.

In documentation accompanying the second beta of iOS 4.3, Apple noted that the new gestures are provided as a preview and will not be enabled for customers. The update could, however, include a new Photo Stream service, as well as a “Find my Friends” feature.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve tried the new version of iOS and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Users report bugs in iChat video recording on current-gen MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Monday, January 31st, 2011, 06:16
Category: MacBook Air, News

You love your new MacBook Air.

You would have asked it to prom if it had been around back then.

And it might not be able to record video chats despite having the hardware to do so.

According to MacFixIt, a reader wrote to state has not been able to record video chats in iChat on his new MacBook Air notebook. While video chats work fine, for some reason the “Record Chat” option in the “Video” menu does not work and the program will not allow video chats to be recorded. This is in contrast to both prior MacBook Air models, all other Mac systems that support video chatting.

MacFixIt reader “Joseph” writes:
“I’ve just discovered that the new MacBook Air, unlike every other current-vintage Apple laptop and desktop, is unable to record a video iChat. My local Apple Store tells me that the problem lies within the hardware itself. Can anyone tell me more specifically what that problem is, and whether there might be any workarounds?”

In the midst of diagnosing the problem, the article suggests creating a new user account on the system to test iChat with and see if any user-related settings were contributing to the problem.

On systems that support recording, a green check will appear. On the MacBook Air systems experiencing this problem an “Insufficient CPU” error will be shown.

Apparently other users have reported experiencing this problem, and in a call to AppleCare, one reader was told it is caused by the latest model of MacBook Air having a hardware incompatibility with iChat that prevents video chats from being recorded. To see this, if you go to the “Video” menu and choose “Connection Doctor,” select “Capabilities” from the drop-down menu and the “Record video chat” option will show “Insufficient CPU” instead of a green check.

Some MacBook Air systems that are experiencing this problem have been able to record video when running Mac OS X 10.5.x, indicating this issue may be with the previous 2009 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.5 in addition to the 2010 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.6.

The hardware in the latest MacBook Air should be fully capable of recording video chats.

Therefore, this is likely a bug in iChat that is preventing this feature from working. It appears Apple uses a specific feature of certain CPUs in iChat’s recording feature, and this feature is either not present in the CPUs used in the latest MacBook Air systems, or it has been disabled in firmware or by how the CPU interfaces with the other hardware changes in the latest MacBook Air systems.

Meanwhile if you are affected by this issue, one workaround that’s been located is to use QuickTime Player’s video chatting capabilities. To do this, start up a video chatting session and launch QuickTime Player. Then start a screen recording session, switch to iChat, and set the video to be full screen. This will record the screen and your audio input which you should then be able to import into iMovie or any other editing software.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Verizon confirms Feb. 3, 3 a.m. preorder window for current customers

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Date: Monday, January 31st, 2011, 05:15
Category: iPhone, News

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With its February 10th launch date just around the corner, wireless carrier Verizon has launched a new teaser countdown page for existing customers, telling them to come back at 3 a.m. eastern standard time on Feb. 3rd.

Per AppleInsider, Verizon sent out emails to business customers earlier this week notifying them of the 3 a.m. start, the new page is the first time that all existing customers were informed of the time. Verizon customers will, of course, still need to check with the carrier to verify that they are eligible for an iPhone upgrade.

Verizon’s iPhone frequently asked questions page still states that preorders will begin “on or around February 3rd 2011″ and will be sold on a “first come, first serve” basis.

While a 3 a.m. Eastern time may seem an odd time for Verizon to begin taking iPhone 4 preorders, it’s the earliest time where all contiguous states will have reached Feb. 3.

The 16GB iPhone 4 model will retail for US$199, while the 32GB model will go for US$299, each with a 2-year contract. A leak on the Apple website Wednesday revealed that Verizon’s voice plans for the iPhone 4 will start at US$39.99 per month, with unlimited data for US$29.99, and the option of 2GB of data tethering for an additional US$20. According to one Verizon executive, the company’s unlimited data plan will only be available for a limited time before being phased out for a tiered pricing structure.

In preparation for the launch, Verizon has also begun carrying cases for the CDMA iPhone 4 on its website. Apple recently began offering a universal bumper case that fits both the GSM and CDMA models of the iPhone 4, since the new CDMA iPhone has a new antenna design that necessitated moving the mute switch slightly.

BBC iPlayer apps for iPhone, iPad close to release

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Date: Friday, January 28th, 2011, 04:45
Category: iPad, News, Software

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You’ve been hankering for it for a while.

And it’s almost here.

Per PaidContent, the BBC is close to launching its long-awaited iPlayer app for iOS, it has been claimed.

A recent story has suggested that the app will be launched as a farewell ‘present’ to future media and technology director Erik Huggers. Huggers is leaving the BBC for Intel and will take up his new role some time at the end of February.

A web-based beta version of iPlayer for the iPad was launched at the same time as the iPad launched in the UK, in May 2010. At the moment the service is accessible through the iPhone and iPad browser, but a dedicated app should lead to a much smoother experience.

The BBC’s intention to develop iPhone apps was greeted with protests from commercial rivals, with the Newspapers Publishers Association pressurising the BBC to put the plans on ice.

A planned BBC News app for iPhone did eventually launch, but a BBC Sport app, which the corporation had originally wanted to launch before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, has still not been released.

The BBC also announced plans in December to roll the iPlayer out to iPad users worldwide, on a subscription basis.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iTunes 10.1.2 update

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Date: Friday, January 28th, 2011, 04:05
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released iTunes 10.1.2, the latest version of its digital jukebox/digital hub software. The new version, an 90.4 megabyte download, sports the following fixes and new features:

- Use AirPlay to instantly and wirelessly stream videos from iTunes to the all-new Apple TV.

- Sync with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 4.2.

- The update also allows for syncing with Apple’s CDMA iPhone (a.k.a., the Verizon iPhone available on February 10th).

iTunes 10.1.2 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run and can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new version and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

AT&T pulls out unadvertised data plan pricing loophole to retain customers

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Date: Thursday, January 27th, 2011, 05:54
Category: iPhone, News

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When in doubt, match your competition’s offer.

Per the Associated Press, AT&T is reportedly offering some customers unlimited iPhone data plans in an attempt to keep them from defecting to rival carrier Verizon, where Apple’s handset will launch on February 10th.

The report states that AT&T is employing an “unadvertised loophole” in an effort to retain some subscribers who contact customer service. The carrier is said to be quietly offering the option to customers who had a previous version of the iPhone prior to June 2010, when the carrier offered an unlimited data plan for US$30.

Though AT&T wouldn’t confirm the option, the report cited a resident of Brentwood, N.Y., who said he and a friend were switched back to an unlimited plan after they contacted the carrier’s customer service and threatened to swtich. Both subscribers are iPhone 4 users who owned a previous version of the iPhone with an unlimited plan.

AT&T introduced tiered data plans with lower pricing in June 2010. New customers can receive 2GB of data for US$25 per month, or 200MB for US$15 per month.

Customers who signed a contract for US$30-per-month unlimited 3G data prior to last June can keep the plan until their two-year contract expires. Those customers have been able to keep their unlimited plan when upgrading, but the ability to switch back to unlimited, after choosing tiered, has apparently been secret.

Claims that AT&T is offering some customers an unlimited option come as the iPhone 4 is just weeks away from going on sale for Verizon customers. This week, the carrier revealed it would offer unlimited data for iPhone customers for US$30 per month.

Verizon Chief Operating Officer Lowell McAdam said Verizon hopes its unlimited offering will help the carrier attract more customers away from AT&T. He said canceling the company’s unlimited plan would create a barrier for customers who might otherwise switch.

“I’m not going to shoot myself in the foot,” McAdam said on Tuesday.

Still, Verizon’s unlimited data plan will only be available for a limited time, as the carrier has indicated it intends to move to a tiered structure with caps on monthly data use, much like AT&T did last June. Verizon has not indicated when it will adopt tiered plans, but the company has expressed interest in making the change in the near future.

When AT&T capped its plans last year, the carrier noted that 65% of its smartphone customers use less than 200MB of data per month, and 98% use less than 2GB per month. To soften the blow, the tiered structure came with lower prices, as AT&T now charges US$5 less per month for its high-end 2GB plan than it did for its unlimited plan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Onyx 2.2.3 released

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Date: Thursday, January 27th, 2011, 04:25
Category: News, Software

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Onyx, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.2.3. The new version, a 16.4 megabyte download (courtesy of MacUpdate), adds the following fixes and changes:

- Misc display bugs corrected.

- Deleting the Fonts Cache improved.

- Deleting the logs improved.

- Help improved and updated.

- Individual deleting the .DS_Store files in the hidden folders.

- Restore Defaults Option in the Parameters > Dock panel improved.

- Bug corrected while checking the volume in some cases.

- Bug corrected in the Parameters panel (Mac OS X Server).

- Bug corrected when OnyX quit all the applications.

Onyx 2.2.3 requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

Verizon to offer $20/month “personal hotspot” WiFi tethering plan

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Date: Wednesday, January 26th, 2011, 06:06
Category: iPhone, News

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Verizon Wireless has finally confirmed that it will offer iPhone 4 with a US$20 “personal hotspot” WiFi tethering plan similar to what it currently offers its existing smartphone subscribers.

According to Macworld, Verizon’s mobile hotspot plan allows users, for an extra US$20 option on top of their data plan, to share their mobile 3G service with up to five WiFi devices (such as an iPad, iPod touch, MacBook, or any other WiFi device).

The iPhone 4 tethering plan has its own 2GB monthly cap, according to the report, with each additional gigabyte costing another US$20/month. Previous Verizon tethering plans cost US$30/month but delivered 5GB of data, in addition to the user’s data plan. That means the unlimited plan with tethering will cost a total of US$50, with 2GB for tethering and unlimited use of mobile data.

AT&T’s US$20 tethering plan currently only supports USB or Bluetooth tethering to a single device at once, and rather than offering a separate data pool, the plan counts use against the user’s plan. That means the 2GB data plan with tethering costs US$45 total, but still only offers 2GB of data per month.

Verizon earlier announced that its new CDMA iPhone 4 would only be offered with an unlimited data plan costing US$30, with no option for a limited use data plan as the company now allows its current smartphone users to choose.

In the future, Verizon says it will phase out the unlimited data plan, following AT&T toward tiered service plans. It has not detailed when it will do this, nor how much it will charge.

AT&T also announced earlier this month that it would be simplifying its texting plans to two options: 1000 messages for US$10/month, or unlimited texts for US$20/month.