Researchers report storing 90 gigabytes of data in bacteria DNA

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Date: Friday, December 24th, 2010, 06:06
Category: News

This is weird.

But it is nifty.

Per BlueSci, researchers from the University of Hong Kong managed to place 90GB of data into the DNA of a colony of 18 E.coli. The data can also be encrypted by site-specific genetic recombination; a purely natural process that means data can be jumbled up.

Given that there are apparently around 10 million cells in a gram of bacteria, and each cell can hold approximately 5GB, this could lead to some pretty enormous storage capacities. Plus, different types of cells have stronger radioresistance than others, meaning the cells (and data in them) would survive a nuclear blast.

However, the discovery still has a lot of work to go, as retrieving the data is “tedious and expensive” for now. That, and DNA cells can mutate, which could destroy some of the data stored. Due to these threats, the testing has only been done on genetically modified bacteria and limited to copyright information data storing only.

Stay tuned for additional details.

And yes, science is both weird and awesome.

Skype network recovering after Wednesday’s crash

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Date: Thursday, December 23rd, 2010, 12:59
Category: News, Software

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There’s a downside to something being successful: eventually people come to rely on you.

Per Macworld, Skype is continuing to slowly recover after an outage caused by problems with its peer-to-peer interconnection system.

The latest estimates say that 10 million users are now online after a crash on Wednesday according to a blog post.

However, users able to get online can still expect that some features may not work as reliably as expected. For example, online statuses may be slow to update, and instant messages might not be delivered as quickly as they are normally, the blog post said.

Also, it’s currently impossible for Skype to predict when all users will be able to sign in and start making calls again, the company said. Around midday European time Thursday, almost 5 million users were back online, Skype said, which is around 30% of the number it would expect to see at that time of the day.

Skype at one point also disabled new downloads of its software, according to a Twitter message from a company spokesman.

Skype’s initial description of the problem said many of the “supernodes” that act as directories for Skype users to find one another were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of the Skype client.

“Our engineers are creating new ‘mega-supernodes’ as fast as they can, which should gradually return things to normal,” the company blog post said.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you were affected by this crash, please let us know.

Apple updates Remote app to version 2.1, includes AirPlay features

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Date: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010, 13:25
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Sometimes it’s the little software updates that prove the coolest.

Per Macworld, Apple has released version 2.1 of the Remote application for its iOS-based devices.

The new version, which can be snagged via the App Store, includes the following fixes and changes:

- AirPlay video support to control iTunes on your computer to stream videos to an Apple TV.

- Internet radio control to play thousands of internet radio streams in iTunes on your computer.

- The ability to control iTunes on your computer to play Movies and TV shows that are rented from the iTunes Store.

- Addresses issues connecting to an iTunes library or Apple TV.

- Includes stability and performance improvements.

Remote 2.1 requires iOS 3.1.2 or later to install and run and is available for free.

How-To: Successfully sync multiple calendars in iCal

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Date: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010, 06:48
Category: How-To, News, Software

If there’s anything that’ll send you screaming over the hills per your Mac, it’s the synchronization of multiple iCal calendars for different computers and mobile devices. Fortunately, the cool cats at CNET have posted the following guide as to how to deal with syncing problems and how to work around this:

“Log out of MobileMe:
Go to the MobileMe system preferences and click the “Sign Out” button on all Macs you sync with. Doing this will ensure that nothing gets synced when you clear or alter your calendars.

Clear out iCal:
Go to all but one device (the one you will use as a master device) and remove all calendars from them. Make sure they are completely empty, then set them aside.

Set up master calendar:
On the “Master” device, remove all duplicate calendars and clean up iCal as best you can, until you have it the way you want it.

Back up the system (Time Machine) once iCal looks the way you want it:
With the calendars set up, be sure to back up your system using Time Machine, so the current calendar configuration is saved in a restorable state.

Export all calendars individually and save them as .ics files in a safe location:
Now that the calendars are backed up, export them from iCal on the master device as .ics files in a safe location. This will save all events and reminders as you like them in a way that they can be easily imported again.

Clear iCal of all calendars:
With the calendars exported, remove the calendars on your master device so it is now empty. This will allow you to start from scratch when syncing to multiple devices, having cleared any hidden metadata and other items that the calendars may use.

Enable MobileMe and reset sync data for calendars, copying from the computer to MobileMe:
Be sure to sync from your computer to MobileMe and not the other way around.

With the master calendar empty, re-enable MobileMe on the master device and then go to the “Advanced” section of the MobileMe system preferences and click the “Reset Sync Data…” button. Select “Calendars” and click the right arrow to move data from the Mac to the MobileMe “Cloud.”

Sync all devices to remove calendars on them, and ensure all calendar data on all synced devices is removed

With the cloud now reset with blank calendar data, re-enable MobileMe and syncing on all of your devices and synchronize to them. This should result in a blank calendar for all devices. If not, then remove any residual calendars and events that pop up, and sync again so all of your devices are blank.

Restore saved calendars to iCal, and check to make sure they are all intact and working.

Now go to your master device and import all your saved .ics calendar files to iCal. This should restore all of your calendars one-by-one to the master device. At this point, you can either manually sync to MobileMe or wait for the system to automatically sync, and the calendars on all of your synced devices should repopulate.”

If you’ve tried this, let us know how it worked for you.

And if you have any tips of your own on this, let us know what they are in the comments.

Apple releases iPhoto 9.1.1 update

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Date: Tuesday, December 21st, 2010, 19:07
Category: News, Software

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Apple on Tuesday released iPhoto 9.1.1, the latest version of its image organization and editing application. The update, a 62.1 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Adds a preference allowing photos to be emailed using an external email application.

- Adds “Classic” and “Journal” themes to email.

- Photos attached to an email can now be sized to Small, Medium or Large.

- Improves reliability when upgrading a library from an earlier version of iPhoto.

- iPhoto now correctly preserves the sort order of Events after upgrading a library.

- Event titles displayed in headers can now be edited in Photos view.

- Addresses a problem that could cause duplicate photos to be added to a MobileMe album.

- Scrolling overlay now correctly displays ratings when photos are sorted by rating.

- Photos are now sorted correctly when a rating is changed and photos are sorted by rating.

- Fixes a problem that could cause text formatting controls to become inaccessible when editing a calendar.

iPhoto 9.1.1 retails for US$49 as part of iLife ’11 and requires Mac OS X 10.6.3 or later to install and run.

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

Apple to shut down Mac OS X Downloads web site on January 6th, 2011

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Date: Tuesday, December 21st, 2010, 14:06
Category: News, Software

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The Mac App Store is en route and things are changing in preparation for its launch.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has revealed to developers that it will be shutting down its Downloads page for Mac OS X on Jan. 6, the day of the Mac App Store launch, as it focuses on the Mac App Store as “the best destination” for Mac OS X apps.

The company announced last week that the Mac App Store will debut in 90 countries on Jan. 6. Chief Executive Steve Jobs unveiled the store at the October “Back to the Mac” media event, promising that the store would open within 90 days.

In an email to developers, Apple revealed its plans to remove downloadable apps from the company’s Mac OS X Downloads site, instead redirecting users to the Mac App Store.

“Thank you for making the Mac OS X Download site a great destination with apps that offer users new ways to work, play, learn, and create on their Mac.

We recently announced that on January 6, 2011, the Mac App Store will open to users around the world, presenting you with an exciting, new opportunity to reach millions of customers. Since the introduction of the App Store in 2008, we’ve been thrilled with the incredible support from developers and the enthusiastic response from users. Now we’re bringing the revolutionary experience of the App Store to Mac OS X.

Because we believe the Mac App Store will be the best destination for users to discover, purchase, and download your apps, we will no longer offer apps on the Mac OS X Downloads site. Instead, beginning January 6, we will be directing users to explore the range of apps available on the Mac App Store.

We appreciate your support of the Mac platform and hope you’ll take advantage of this new opportunity to showcase your apps to even more users. To learn how you can offer your apps on the Mac App Store, visit the Apple Developer website at http://developer.apple.com/programs/mac.”

For years, Apple’s Mac OS X Downloads site has served as a repository for Mac OS X apps. Though the site promotes a number of third-party applications, Apple also uses the page to feature several of its own Mac OS X applications, such as iTunes, Safari and iWork.

Like the App Store on iOS devices, developers will receive a 70% share of sales through the Mac App Store, with Apple keeping 30%. Unlike iOS, the Mac App Store will not be a “walled garden,” leaving developers free to offer their apps through other avenues. Developers have been encouraged to use their own websites for demos, trial versions, or betas of their software, since the Mac App Store will only accept “fully functional, retail versions” of apps.

Evidence of Mac App Store support has been found in developer builds of Mac OS X 10.6.6. The store will be available to Mac OS X Snow Leopard users as a free download through Software Update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Hitachi announces Z5K500 500GB notebook hard drive

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Date: Tuesday, December 21st, 2010, 05:56
Category: hard drive, Hardware, News

Electronics giant Hitachi has announced the industry’s highest density, single-platter hard disk drive that has an areal density of 636Gbit/inch, almost 100Gbit per square inch more than its closest competitor.

Per Macworld, Hitachi’s 2.5″ in 5400-rpm Travelstar Z5K500 laptop drive is only 7mm in height. The drive is the industry’s highest capacity, single-platter hard disk drive. The Travelstar Z5K500, which comes in 500GB, 320GB and 250GB capacities, is the second second generation of Hitachi products to use the company’s Advanced Format drive, which increases the physical sector size on drives from 512 bytes to 4096 (4K) bytes, thereby improving drive capacity and error correction capabilities.

Western Digital was first to the table with a 1TB laptop drive last year. That Scorpio Blue drive, however, contained three 333GB capacity platters and measured 12.5mm in height. Seagate and Toshiba then followed with their own three-platter, 12.5mm 1TB laptop drives, along with two-platter 750GB 9.5mm-high drives.

Hitachi said its new drive surpasses per-gigabyte cost advantages that other 2.5″ and 1.8″ drives had offered. Of course, it also exceeds the price per gigabyte when compared to solid-state drives, as well.

Hitachi’s new Travelstar Z5K500 drives have 8MB cache and a Serial ATA (SATA) 3Gbit/sec interface.

The drives are aimed at system manufacturers who can use the thinner drives to differentiate product lines by utilizing space savings to produce thinner devices, add battery capacity, increase shock robustness, or improve internal airflow.

The Travelstar Z-series of drives also offer an optional bulk data encryption feature, which allows the drives to be set to encrypt all data stored on them. The drives are expected to ship to distributors this month.

Hitachi said pricing for the new drive models has not been finalized.

Apple’s Mac App Store to launch on January 6, 2011

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Date: Monday, December 20th, 2010, 08:23
Category: News, Software

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It you’re looking for another way to exchange currency for your Mac apps, Apple’s long-awaited Mac App Store has a delivery date of January 6, 2011.

Per Macworld, the storefront will go online in 90 countries and the storefront, first unveiled in October at Apple’s Back to the Mac event, will aim to offer a parallel experience to the one Apple pioneered in 2008 with its App Store for iOS devices. Users will be able to purchase paid and download free apps in categories like Education, Games, Productivity, Utilities, and more. Any downloaded can be installed on all a user’s personal Macs, and updates are handled by the store. The revenue-sharing deal is the same as with the App Store: developers take 70% of income, with Apple taking the other 30% to cover hosting costs and credit card fees.

In spite of the idea, the Mac App Store has already raised some controversy, with many developers pointing to restrictive rules that would block several popular existing apps from sale and others worrying that it may signal the beginning of a slippery slope towards a locked-down ecosystem similar to iOS devices. On the flipside, some have argued that the Mac App Store may be a good thing for consumers and developers alike, with the former gaining an easy central location to find software for their computer, and the latter getting massive exposure among Mac users.

The Mac App Store will require Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to install and run and be available as a free download via Software Update.

AT&T secures rights to US$1.9 billion of 4G wireless spectrum licensing, gearing up new network for 2011

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Date: Monday, December 20th, 2010, 08:47
Category: iPhone, News

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Wireless carrier and U.S. exclusive iPhone provider AT&T announced on Monday that it has agreed to purchase US$1.925 billion worth of wireless spectrum from Qualcomm for its forthcoming 4G network.

Per AppleInsider, AT&T has agreed to purchase spectrum licenses from Qualcomm in the lower 700 MHz frequency band. The US$1.925 acquisition is said to bolster AT&T’s ability to provide an advanced 4G mobile broadband service “in the years ahead,” the company said in a press release.

The spectrum being sold to AT&T is currently licensed to FLO TV, but that agreement with Qualcomm is expected to be shut down in March 2011.

The available spectrum acquired by AT&T covers more than 300 million people total nationwide. 12 MHz of lower 700 MHz D and E block spectrum is accessible by more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The remaining 6 Mhz of lower 700 MHz D block spectrum covers more than 230 million people.

AT&T stated that it intends to deploy the spectrum as “supplemental downlink” once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed. AT&T and Qualcomm anticipate they will close on the sale in the second half of 2011.

While AT&T is still building its own 4G network, expected to launch in mid-2011, the company was recently beaten to the punch by rival Verizon, the company’s 4G long-term evolution network debuted earlier this month, offering 10 times faster download speeds in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.

AT&T will partner with Alcatel and Lucent to build out its LTE network, which will deliver higher broadband throughput and lower latency than the company’s existing 3G network. But even before AT&T’s 4G launches, the company has touted that its existing 3G network is 20 to 60% faster than its competitors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what you make of this in the comments.

Apple looking to hire additional software engineers to boost iOS navigational features

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Date: Monday, December 20th, 2010, 04:21
Category: News, Software

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A quartet of job postings on its employment web site (1, 2, 3, 4) shows that Apple is looking to hire at least four new employees for its iOS development team. The description for the full-time job based in Santa Clara Valley, Calif., calls for “outstanding engineers to deliver the next generation of Apple products.”

“Seize this ground floor opportunity to help us build the world’s best hosted platforms at massive scale,” it reads.

Per AppleInsider, Apple seeks job candidates with “valuable knowledge” related to the development of navigation software, as well as “deep knowledge of Computational Geometry or Graph Theory.” Candidates are required to have at least 3 years’ experience of developing “high quality, robust software systems.”

The hires, and the mention of navigation software, could signal that Apple is gearing up to build its own personal navigation tools into the iOS mobile operating system. Apple’s chief competitor in the mobile space, Google, introduced its own turn-by-turn software for Android devices over a year ago.

A cloud-based navigation solution could also be a major use for Apple’s new massive data center in North Carolina. Another job listing posted this week for an iOS software engineer notes that it looking for an employee to manage and automate “distributed image processing on a server cluster.”

“The position is with an emerging and rapidly growing product team building software used by millions of Apple customers in rapidly growing markets worldwide,” the description reads. “The candidate will be part of a team that develops and maintains a complex array of global content.”

iOS 4 also includes a video out feature that could allow remote control and display of an iPhone, a feature that has already been taken advantage of by BMW. It’s possible that Apple’s solution could seamlessly integrate turn-by-turn directions with a vehicle using this method.

Apple has also shown interest in developing its own unique mapping solution for the iPhone, with two key acquisitions related to maps: Placebase and Poly9.

In April of this year, Apple began integrating its own databases for location-based services following the release of the iPad and iOS 3.2. Previously, Apple relied on databases maintained by Skyhook Wireless and Google for location services.

The iOS Maps application still relies on Google for map imagery as well as its “Street View,” but the change could signal that Apple plans to rely solely on its own technology in the future. In addition, in 2009, Apple indicated it wanted to hire someone who would help take the iPhone’s Maps application “to the next level,” with the intention of changing how users use Maps and find things.

“We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way,” that job listing read. “We’ve only just started.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.