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.

Cocktail updated to 6.0.2

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Date: Thursday, August 16th, 2012, 07:39
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, shareware developer Maintain released version 6.0.2 of CocktailCocktail (Lion Edition), the popular shareware utility program that allows for additional Mac OS X system tests. The new version, a 2.2 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

– Addresses an issue in which Cocktail could not force empty the Trash.

– Addresses an issue in which Cocktail may fail to scan preference files.

– Various improvements to the Pilot scheduler.

– Resolves some OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion compatibility issues.

Cocktail 6.0.2 retails for a US$19.00 shareware registration fee and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.8 or later to install and run.

QuarkXPress 9.3.1 update released

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Date: Wednesday, August 15th, 2012, 07:25
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, software developer Quark released version 9.3.1 of its QuarkXPress design application. The 1.1 gigabyte update, which can be downloaded here (thanks to MacUpdate), adds the following change:

– Includes an installer/updater that is compatible with the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion Gatekeeper feature. This release is not compatible with QPS 9.2.

QuarkXPress 9.3.1 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 later to install and retails for US$799.00 for the full version.

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

Dropbox 1.5.12 beta goes live, now available for download

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Date: Wednesday, August 15th, 2012, 07:15
Category: News, Software

Hey, sometimes the beta version can rock.

On Wednesday, Dropbox released a public beta of version 1.5.12 of its cloud-based storage client for Mac OS X. The new version, a 22.6 megabyte download, which adds the following fixes and changes:

– Support for Notification Center on OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

– Support for new sign-in backend.

– Minor bug fixes.

Dropbox 1.5.12 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

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

Adobe releases Flash Player 11.3.300.271 update

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 15:39
Category: News, security, Software

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Late Wednesday, Adobe released Flash Player 11.3.300.271 for Mac OS X, a 11.6 megabyte download via MacUpdate. The new version adds a slew of security fixes outlined here.

Flash Player 11.3.300.271 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, please feel free to hurl your two cents in via the comments.

Sprint offers $100 gift card with purchase of iPhone 4S, Apple offers $100 store credit in return

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 14:27
Category: iPhone, News, retail

Let the incentives roll.

Per Business Insider, wireless carrier Sprint is now giving a $100 pre-paid gift card to new iPhone 4S buyers and Apple will be matching the deal by offering an Apple Store credit for the same amount.

The new incentive, the second in as many weeks from Sprint, comes ahead of an expected Sept. 12 launch of the next-generation iPhone and has prompted> Apple to make good on its promise to match iPhone pricing from major resellers, Business Insider has learned.

Sprint last week slashed the price of Apple’s iPhone 4S to US$149 not including a US$36 activation fee waiver, a move followed by other sellers including Target and Best Buy. Apple subsequently instructed its stores to match the discount prices being offered by the major retailers, limited to US$49 for the iPhone 4 and US$149 for the iPhone 4S.

With the new US$100 American Express pre-paid card, US$149 discount, activation fee waiver and free shipping, Sprint has effectively whittled down the cost of buying an iPhone 4S to US$50. There are stipulations, however, as the added gift card bonus is online only and lasts until Aug. 26. It is unclear if Apple will continue to offer the store credits after Sprint’s sale ends.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat Pro updated to 10.1.4

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 14:20
Category: News, Software

On Tuesday, Adobe released version 10.1.4 of its Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat Pro applications. The updates, which can also be snagged through the Adobe Update Utility, adds the following fixes and changes:

– This is a regular quarterly update that provides security mitigations, feature enhancements, and bug fixes.

– Added support for Mac OS X 10.8.

– Safari 5.1 for 10.6.8-10.7, Safari 6.0 for 10.8.

Acrobat Reader 10.1.4 and Acrobat Pro requires an Intel-based processor and Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new versions and noticed any differences, please let us know what you think.

How-To: Remote lock, remote wipe and restore data to a Mac via iCloud

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 06:11
Category: How-To, iCloud, News

You might want to take a gander at this.

Following last week’s news that Wired journalist Mat Honan had his Mac remotely wiped as part of a devastating attack by hackers, a lot of interest has been focused on how to both remotely wipe your Mac’s data via iCloud as well as restore your data via iCloud.

Jim Tanous has stepped up to the plate over at the Mac Observer and offered a useful step by step guide as to how to remote lock, remote wipe and restore data to your Mac as well as recover data from a damaged hard drive.

Take a look, see what you think and be careful out there.

GameStop hopes to stop financial slide, looks to sell refurbished iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 06:09
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

Ok, you might not walk into GameStop that often unless you’re a gamer or parent of a gamer.

This might change in the future, as the struggling retailer has announced plans to embrace the iOS as a gaming platform. Per SFGate, the company began a program last fall of buying up used iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches from consumers, then sending them to a “Refurbishment Operations Center” in Texas where the devices are cleaned up and repaired. Once they’re in nice working order, the devices are returned to GameStop stores where they’re sold at a decent markup. The items are also being sold on GameStop’s web site.

Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities thinks that the Apple refurb business could be a gold mine for GameStop. Even if GameStop resells just 5 percent of the 230 million Apple devices estimated to be in the hands of U.S. consumers, it could bring in about US$1 billion in new revenue in the next few years.

Pachter also thinks GameStop could make a killing by selling prepaid phone plans with those used iPhones, “since a lot of their customers are teenagers with money to spend but no credit to get a regular phone plan.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.