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.

Apple advocates use of iMessage in wake of SMS bug discovery

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Date: Monday, August 20th, 2012, 07:11
Category: iPhone, News, security, Software

Ok, this is going to require a fix.

Following a discovery last week wherein Pod2G uncovered a SMS flaw in iOS that lets someone send a spoofed SMS (in this scenario, the SMS would appear to be from a trusted source, but the response would actually be sent to someone else), the cool cats at Engadget reached out to Apple for comment and received the following reply:

“Apple takes security very seriously. When using iMessage instead of SMS, addresses are verified which protects against these kinds of spoofing attacks. One of the limitations of SMS is that it allows messages to be sent with spoofed addresses to any phone, so we urge customers to be extremely careful if they’re directed to an unknown website or address over SMS.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and with any luck, a fix should be en route soon.

AT&T to require Mobile Share plan to use FaceTime under 3G, 4G connections

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Date: Monday, August 20th, 2012, 07:55
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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You’ll be able to do FaceTime over 3G and 4G connections, you’ll just need the right kind of account to do so.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier AT&T on Friday announced it will be limiting FaceTime over 3G and 4G networkds to iPhone who sign up for the carrier’s upcoming Mobile Share plans, which are slated to launch later this month.

While the wireless carrier will be providing FaceTime for free over its network, the catch is that subscribers will have to add sign up for the new Mobile Share data plans announced earlier in August.

Oddly, AT&T said iPhone owners can still use FaceTime for free on Wi-Fi networks, though that particular feature is not under the control of wireless providers.

From the statement:
“AT&T will offer FaceTime over Cellular as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans, which were created to meet customers’ growing data needs at a great value. With Mobile Share, the more data you use, the more you save. FaceTime will continue to be available over Wi-Fi for all our customers.”

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in July said it was “too early” to talk about FaceTime over the company’s network. The statement was made in response to a error message discovered in Apple’s iOS 6 beta, prompting speculation the service would be fee-based.

In a subsequent report, Sprint noted it would be offering the feature for free when the next-gen iOS 6 launches this fall.

Speculation that FaceTime would be offered over cellular networks first began when a warning message in iOS 5.1.1 regarding 3G network data settings appeared to hint at the unannounced service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google Chrome updated to 21.0.1180.81

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Date: Friday, August 17th, 2012, 16:42
Category: News, Software

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You can’t knock frequent updates.

On Friday, Google released a beta of version 21.0.1180.81 of its Chrome web browser. The update, a 43.8 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

– Duplex Printing defaults to Yes, which prints extra pages even for a 1 page print out (Issue 138312).

– Print preview takes forever on Win XP (issue: 140044).

– Anti-DDoS inversion of logic (Issues: 141643, 141081).

– Pepper Flash: in file uploads, treats HTTP status != 200 as failure, breaking (e.g.) uploads to Amazon S3 (Issue: 140468).

– Projectmanager.com application causes Flash to hang (Issue: 141018)
Turn off TLS 1.1 in Chrome 21 Stable (Issue: 142172).

– An additional scroll bar appears at the right on many sites (issue: 140239).

– Setting and unsetting display:none obliterates current scroll position (issue: 140101).

Google Chrome 21.0.1180.81 requires an Intel-based Mac with 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.

China Unicom may break away from contract sales of iPhone, cites high overhead costs

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Date: Friday, August 17th, 2012, 06:20
Category: iPhone, News

Sometimes contracts don’t work as well as you’d like them to.

Per DigiTimes, China’s Unicom wireless carrier is struggling to benefit from its investment in contract sales of Apple’s latest iPhone models and is reportedly considering a move that would do away with traditional pricing discounts on the handset for customers willing to sign two-year service agreements.

As the only WCDMA carrier in China, China Unicom signed a two-year agreement with Apple back in September of 2010 to offer its iPhone subscribers the handsets at reduced pricing if they agree to 24-month service contracts.

But high overhead costs for the devices themselves, coupled with a need for continued investment in infrastructure to support surging growth and data consumption by iPhone users, has China Unicom mulling a move to end contract bundles of the phone come next month.

Company representatives have stated that China Unicom “has not substantially profited from sales of iPhone 4” and therefore may not re-sign its agreement with Apple to continue sales of the iPhone 4S or a new version of the phone widely expected to make its debut in September.

Though no further details were reported, it appears that the carrier would continue to carry the iPhone but only market it to customers who are willing to pay full retail price for the device.

Although most iPhone carriers offer Apple’s latest device to customers at prices between US$199 and US$399 USD, they actually purchase the phones from Apple at much higher costs, then turn around and subsidize the handsets for customers, banking on recouping the overhead costs and making profits through two-year, high-margin service agreements.

For its part, China Unicom has been amongst the most aggressive with its subsidies, and earlier this year began offering the 16GB iPhone 4S at no cost to customers who sign up for multi-year service contracts for as little as US$45 USD per month.

With more than 125 million subscribers, China Unicom is China’s second-largest cell phone service provider. It’s also the tenth-largest worldwide. But its 3G business has reportedly been a money-losing operation, with high smartphone subsidies — like those required for the iPhone — accounting for 45% of its overhead.

As of January, the average selling price of an iPhone — or the price charged by Apple to carriers — was roughly US$660.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Motion Picture Experts Group releases H.265 draft standard, offers Web-based video at twice the quality, half the data size

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Date: Thursday, August 16th, 2012, 08:10
Category: News, Software

If you think Web-based video is impressive now, wait a bit.

Per AppleInsider, the Motion Pictures Expert Group has issued a new video standards draft that promises to deliver twice the video quality at the same size, or alternatively, identical video quality at half the data rate as today’s MPEG-4 H.264 standard.

The new H.265 draft specifically addresses mobile devices and networks overloaded with video. Products using the new H.265 video compression standard could begin to launch as early as 2013.

Apple is likely to quickly adopt support for the new H.265 specification, just as it has rapidly rolled out support for new features of H.264, including support for expanded H.264 profiles in the new third generation Apple TV and the new iPad.

MPEG, formed by the International Standards Organization in 1988, first developed a joint video compression format in 1993 intended for Video CD. Its video codec, H.261, was used to deliver multimedia video clips. The audio portion of that standard, MPEG-1 Audio Layer III (also known as MP3) revolutionized the portability of music by allowing users to rip CDs to files that could be compressed enough to be used in mobile devices with limited storage.

Apple backed MP3 with the iPod in 2001 at a time when Microsoft and Sony were working to entrench their own proprietary standards with strong DRM (Windows Media and ATRAC, respectively).

MPEG released the MPEG-2 standard in 1994, which enabled high quality DVD and efficient digital TV transmissions. MPEG-2 incorporated the initial H.261 video compression standard as well as a more efficient H.262 and, later, the H.263 ASP codec implemented by DivX and Xvid, popular formats used for video file sharing. Work on an MPEG-3 standard aimed at HDTV was abandoned and folded into the MPEG-2 portfolio.

MPEG-4, initiated in 1998 and released in 2003, merged the television and video industry’s expertise with work pioneered by Apple’s QuickTime on desktop computers, resulting in a video format that incorporated Apple’s QuickTime container format. This helped to simplify video editing tasks, even as Apple began adopting advanced bidirectional compression technologies in QuickTime that had been contributed to the MPEG-4 pool by the rest of the industry.

MPEG-4 carried forward H.263, which Apple hadn’t ever widely used, while also introducing H.264, which enabled a doubling of video quality at the same size as the earlier H.263 codec.

Before MPEG-4, Apple had previously used proprietary video codecs from Sorenson in QuickTime, but rapidly began adopting MPEG standards as the pooled efforts of every major company with video expertise began to quickly outpace the development of alternatives.

Apple helped to popularize MPEG-4’s AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) format as a more efficient replacement for MP3 in iTunes, then brought MPEG-4’s H.264 video compression into the desktop computing mainstream as the default video codec in QuickTime. It is now essentially the only video standard supported by the iPhone and other iOS devices, and H.264 is deeply integrated into the architecture of QuickTime.

While MPEG itself usually refers to its MPEG-4 audio and video standards as AAC and AVC, Steve Jobs introduced the new video standard to the world as H.264, and Apple continued to refer to it by its ITU numerical designation. MPEG is now referring to its newest H.265 standard as “HEVC” (High Efficiency Video Coding).

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple seeds third Mac OS X 10.7.5 beta to developer community

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Date: Thursday, August 16th, 2012, 07:37
Category: News, Software

The nice thing about betas, it means they’re a bit closer to getting somewhere.

Per MacNN, Apple is seeding a third developer beta of OS X 10.7.5 to developers. The code is listed as build 11G36, and as before, has no known issues. Apple is also holding steady on testing focus, asking developers to look at graphics quality and performance, along with media importing, editing, and viewing.

The Mac OS X 10.7.5 update may or may not be the last for OS X Lion, since Mountain Lion has been available for several weeks. Apple is forging new ground with its current development cycle, since it has switched to releasing a new OS every year. As a result, it may end up having to support Lion well into Mountain Lion’s lifespan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.