Apple launches MacBook bottom case replacement program for Unibody MacBooks shipped between October, 2009 and April, 2011

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Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 04:27
Category: MacBook, News

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Over the past couple days, Apple has initiated a case replacement program for MacBooks shipped between October 2009 and April 2011 to resolve an issue where the rubber separates from the bottom of the case.

Per AppleInsider, the MacBook Bottom Case Replacement Program is available to owners with affected MacBooks, regardless of current warranty status.

Apple offers three options for replacing the case: set up an appointment with an Apple Genius and visit an Apple Retail Store; visit an Apple Authorized Service Provider; and self service by ordering a replacement case kit online. Do It Yourself kits include a new bottom case, screws, a Phillips head screwdriver and instructions for removal of the old case and installation of the new one.

Customers who have paid for a repair or replacement because of the issue can also contact Apple regarding a refund. The note advises that no action is required for owners who aren’t currently experiencing the issue.

The program will be offered worldwide and will cover affected MacBooks for two years from the original purchase date, though it does not extend standard warranty coverage. Further extensions of the program may come as Apple continues to “evaluate service data.”

Apple introduced the redesigned polycarbonate unibody MacBook with a unique non-skid rubber bottom in October 2009. The entry-level notebook line received a quiet update in May 2010, adding Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics.

According to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu’s checks with suppliers, the Mac maker will update the MacBook line in a matter of months. Wu estimates the white MacBook accounts for roughly one-third of Apple’s portable business, which makes up 73% of all Mac sales.

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

Apple releases third Mac OS X 10.6.8 build to developer community

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 03:21
Category: News, Software

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If you’re hankering for the Mac OS X 10.6.8 update, it’s coming.

On Friday, Apple seeded the third build of Mac OS X 10.6.8 to developers, with no known issues.

Per AppleInsider, the 1GB download is labeled 10K531. MacStories reports that focus areas for the beta software remain unchanged: Airport, Graphics Drivers, Mac App Store, Networking, QuickTime and VPN.

Thus far, Apple has maintained a weekly release schedule with developer builds of Mac OS X. The first release came two weeks ago, and the second build arrived last week.

It is as yet unclear whether Mac OS X 10.6.8 contains a fix that will find and remove the MAC Defender malware, though Apple may likely release the fix as a standalone security update. The company promised earlier this week to release an update to Mac OS X that would resolve an issue with phony antivirus software that automatically downloads as a phishing scam looking for users’ credit card numbers.

The malicious software first appeared in early May, though one noted security expert has downplayed the threat as being “simply a trick website” rather than a viral attack.

Apple released the latest update to Mac OS X Snow Leopard in March with changes designed to improve the reliability of Back to My Mac, resolve issues when transferring files to SMB Windows Files Sharing servers, and address Mac App Store bugs. Mac OS X 10.6.7 also contained fixes for Thunderbolt MacBook Pros to address “minor FaceTime performance issues” and improve “graphics stability and external display compatibility.”

This summer, Apple will launch the next major upgrade to its flagship operating system in the form of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Mac OS X Lion contains numerous new features and changes, many of which are drawn from Apple’s experience with iOS.

If you’ve gotten a chance to play with the new build and have any feedback, please let us know.

Skype updated to 5.1.0.968, resolves connection issue

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 12:09
Category: News, Software

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On Monday, version 5.1.0.968 of Skype went public. The new version, a 20.2 megabyte download, resolves an issue in which users had trouble connecting to the Skype network.

Skype 5.1.0.968 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

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

Apple looking to create outdoor, sunglasses-friendly LCD screens

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 02:35
Category: News, Patents

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It’s Friday, additional Apple patent applications have emerged and Apple has apparently shown interest in creating an improved LCD display for devices like the iPhone and iPad that is not distorted when viewed by a user wearing polarized sunglasses outdoors.

Per AppleInsider, the proposed new technology was revealed in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. Entitled “Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light,” the proposed invention describes a liquid-crystal display that reduces perceived distortion when viewed through linearly polarizing filters, such as sunglasses.

In the application, Apple notes that current LCDs are based on polarization optics, and typically utilize linear polarizers on their front surfaces. The problem is that the light from LCDs typically has an electric field that only vibrates in one direction, while polarized sunglasses only allow through light with an electric field that vibrates in the vertical direction.

“Hence a user looking at the LCD display of a portable device… may see a distorted image in the display when viewed through polarized sunglasses, due to the polarized filters in the sunglasses blocking the light when the display is viewed at some angles,” the application reads.

When an LCD display is seen through polarized sunglasses, at certain angles the screen may be completely dark or somewhat obscured. The issue can be made even worse when a lens cover is placed in front of a display for protection or industrial design, as these plastics can compound the issue with color and gray artifacts.

Apple’s solution is a display that emits circularly polarized light by placing a layer in the path of linearly polarized light.

“The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface,” the application reads. “By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter.”

The invention would allow for superior outdoor viewing of displays, like iPhone or iPad screens, by reducing perceived distortion created when a user wears sunglasses.

Apple’s adoption of glass screen covers and glossy displays has been a point of criticism against the company, as some have complained they make viewing of devices in sunlight near impossible. The company has even brought back antiglare matte screens to some of its MacBook Pro options as an optional US$150 upgrade.

By creating a screen that could accommodate sunglasses, Apple would craft a new LCD that would allow a reduced amount of light to reach a user’s eye without distorting the screen. This could improve the ability to use devices like an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro outdoors on a sunny day.

Apple first filed for the proposed invention in January of this year. It is credited to John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin, and Shawn R. Gettemy.

Skype posts workaround instructions for connection issues found on Mac OS X, Windows (updated)

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 05:55
Category: News, Software

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Er, if Microsoft paid US$8.5 billion for something, I suppose they’d like it to work on all the platforms it services…

Per Macworld, Skype has published workaround instructions for correcting an issue that prevented many Mac users from successfully logging into the service. The company also published a set on instructions focused on resolving connections on the Windows operating systems.

Early Thursday morning, some Skype users found that they couldn’t log in or stay connected. Not all users were affected, however: Folks using Skype on iOS and Android devices were fine, as were some people using different desktop editions of the client.

The issue prevented some callers on Mac OS X and various incarnations of Windows from connecting. According to Skype, Mac users battling connection issues can repair the problem by following these steps:

- Quit Skype.

- Navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/ (~ refers to your Home directory).

- Locate the file shared.xml, and delete it.

- Launch Skype again.

Upon relaunch, Skype will generate a new version of the XML file. There’s no word yet on what caused the issue, or why deleting the XML file will correct it.

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

New version of “Mac Defender” malware found, lacks administrator password requirement

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 03:05
Category: News, security, Software

Somewhere, the guys who created this program really DO have a bridge to try and sell you…

Per security firm Intego, a new, more dangerous variant of “MAC Defender,” dubbed “Mac Guard,” has been discovered, the new malware variant lacking the requirement of an administrator password to install.

The discovery was announced on Wednesday, the company commenting that “the first part is a downloader, a tool that, after installation, downloads a payload from a web server,” the security firm said.

“As with the Mac Defender malware variants, this installation package, called avSetup.pkg, is downloaded automatically when a user visits a specially crafted web site,” the firm continued.

No administrator’s password is required to install the application, and if users have Safari’s “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading option checked, the package will open Apple’s Mac OS X installer, and users will see a standard installation screen. However, at this point users must still agree to install the “MAC Defender” malware.

The second part of the malware is a new version called “MacGuard.” The avRunner application automatically downloads “MacGuard,” which, like its predecessor, aims to trick users into providing credit card numbers in exchange for supposedly ridding a users’ systems of “infected” files for a given license fee.

This week, Apple posted a support document on its web site explaining how to remove the “MAC Defender” malware. The company also revealed it will release an update to its Mac OS X operating system that will automatically find and remove the malware.

Some reports have suggested that the “MAC Defender” malware has spread quickly, with one anonymous AppleCare representative claiming that the “overwhelming majority” of recent calls to Apple were related to the malware. The software was first discovered early this month, also by Intego.

While the original variant was categorized as a “low” threat because it requires users to type in an administrator password, the latest version is considered more dangerous, and was ranked with a “medium” risk.

The malware has spread through search engines like Google via a method known as “SEO poisoning.” Using this technique, phony sites are designed to game search engine algorithms and show up when users search for certain topics.

AT&T to introduce 4G LTE network to 15 markets by end of 2011

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPhone, News

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Though reports have suggested Apple’s next iPhone will not support the 4G long-term evolution standard, AT&T will roll out its new high-speed network to more than 70 million customers by the end of 2011.

According to AppleInsider, Details for AT&T’s 2011 LTE plans were detailed by the company’s chief technology officer, John Donovan, in a post on his company’s web site. AT&T’s 4G network will debut this summer in five markets: Dallas, Tex., Houston, Tex., Chicago, Ill., Atlanta, Ga., and San Antonio, Tex.

“We plan to add another 10 or more markets in the second half of the year, and cover 70 million Americans with LTE by year-end,” Donovan wrote. “We also have plans to add 20 4G devices to our robust device portfolio this year, with some of those being LTE capable.”

He revealed that AT&T has invested US$75 billion in its wireless and wired networks in the last four years and that the company also plans to invest US$19 billion in wireless and wireline networks, along with other capital projects, this year.

The launch of AT&T’s LTE network will come well after rival Verizon, which debuted its fourth-generation high-speed network last December in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.

AT&T has been hyping its forthcoming LTE network, and last week showed off download speeds of 28.8Mbps, along with 10.4Mbps uploads. The download rate is more than seven times faster than the 3.77Mbps rate that can be reached on AT&T’s current HSPA network, while uploads were more than eight times the current 1.21Mbps rate.

Verizon says its LTE network has real-world data rates of between 5Mbps and 12MBps downstream and 2Mbps to 5Mbps upstream. Verizon’s LTE network will be nationwide by the end of 2013, while AT&T has said its own LTE deployment will be “largely complete” by the same time.

Recent rumors have pegged an LTE-capable iPhone to come from Apple in 2012, and not this year. Verizon’s chief executive said earlier this year that Apple understands the “value proposition of LTE,” and that they will be “a part of” the technology’s future.

At the official Verizon CDMA iPhone 4 unveiling in January, executives revealed that Apple chose not to include LTE technology because it would require design changes. Officials from Verizon indicated they wanted the iPhone as soon as possible, so Apple obliged with a modified version of the GSM-based iPhone 4 released in 2010.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts support document describing how to remove Mac Defender phishing software

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 05:13
Category: News, Software

Apple has posted a support document explaining how to “avoid or remove” the infamous Mac Defender program and stated it would release an update to Mac OS X to automatically find and remove the malware.

The new support document describes the malware as a phishing scam that redirects users from legitimate websites to “fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus.”

The websites then offer phony antivirus software for a license fee between US$59.95 and US$79.95 to solve the problem, under the names Mac Defender, Mac Protector and Mac Security, often with MAC spelled in all caps.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s removal steps detail quitting the offending app and deleting it from the Utilities folder it is installed into by default. The primary damage caused by the malware is to nag the user for their credit card information in an attempt to sell them a solution to a nonexistent problem.

Windows PC pundits, have made highly publicized reports of the Mac Defender malware, suggesting it is evidence that Macs are now experiencing malware and virus problems comparable to those experienced by Windows users over the past two decades.

Security expert Charlie Miller, who has regularly won security contests demonstrating Mac exploits, has downplayed that real threat of the few Mac malware titles that have surfaced, recently noting in an interview that “Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14 downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates how rare malware still is on the Mac platform.”

Miller explained that while antivirus software can help protect your system from being infected, he also countered that “it’s expensive, uses system memory and reduces battery life,” stating, “At some point soon, the scales will tip to installing antivirus, but at this point, I don’t think it’s worth it yet for most people.”

Apple recommends that Mac users “should exercise caution any time they are asked to enter sensitive personal information online” and notes that it “provides security updates for the Mac exclusively through Software Update and the Apple Support Downloads site.”

The Mac Defender scam presents a phony website scanner with an appearance modeled after iTunes, and depicts itself as being an “Apple security center,” apparently modeled after the “Windows Security Center” Microsoft added to its own product.

Because the phony web page and its popups are tied to the browser, they do not look native alerts from Mac OS X. The scam site is also unable to install the malware without the user supplying an administrative password. Even so, hundreds of users have been duped by the scam, although the outbreak appears to be more of a nagware annoyance than a serious security problem.

In other news, the developers of Mac Defender also have a bridge they’d like to sell you…

Microsoft retracts CEO Steve Ballmer’s comments as to Windows 8 arriving in 2012, cites “misstatement”

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 04:42
Category: News, Software

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has always possessed a multitude of skills.

Knowing when to keep his mouth shut has not always been one of them.

Per InfoWorld, a Microsoft spokesperson has clarified Ballmer’s comments as to Windows 8 arriving in 2012 as “a misstatement.”

At a developer forum in Tokyo, Japan on Monday, Ballmer used the name “Windows 8″ in public for the first time.

“We’re obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We’ve done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We’ve added touch, and ink, and speech,” the company’s official transcript reported Ballmer as saying.

“And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there’s a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors,” he continued.

However, Ballmer may have said too much, as Microsoft has retracted the comments.

“It appears there was a misstatement,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement the company issued. “We are eagerly awaiting the next generation of Windows 7 hardware that will be available in the coming fiscal year. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.” Microsoft’s 2011 fiscal year ends on June 30.

According to the report, Microsoft has kept quiet about the names of previous Windows versions. Windows 7 wasn’t officially labeled as such until “just weeks” before developers received an early build.

However, analysts and developers appear to have already settled on calling the next version “Windows 8,” though Microsoft’s backpedaling has left some analysts wondering. “Was it the name, Windows 8?” analyst Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft asked. “Or was it [the release in] 2012? Sometimes this is like being a soothsayer, pulling apart the entrails of animals.”

Developers report that builds of Windows 8 are still in the early stages. For example, the Ribbon UI feature is “only half-finished and, frankly, of dubious value,” according to one report.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe releases Lightroom 3.4.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 04:59
Category: News, Software

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Early Tuesday, software giant released version 3.4.1 of its Lightroom (available on the company’s update page) photo editing utility. The Lightroom 3.4.1 update added the following fixes and changes:

- Additional camera support for several new camera models including the Canon Rebel T3i, Nikon D5100 and Fuji FinePix X100.

- Corrections for issues introduced in previous versions of Lightroom 3.

- The Lightroom 3.4.1 update includes an important correction for a bug introduced in the Lightroom 3.4 release.

Adobe Lightroom 3.4.1 retails for US$299 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later to install and run.