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Microsoft looking to ARM processors, HTML5 for Windows 8 mobile strategy

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:38
Category: News, Software

There may be something to this whole HTML5 thing…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has provided a look at how it plans to bring Windows to more mobile devices in the future, leveraging ARM processors and using HTML5 as the basis of a new app platform.

As demonstrated at the D9 conference, Windows 8 will deliver a touch-centric new interface for apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that runs on top of the existing, conventional Windows platform.

The company showed off a new Start screen patterned after the tiled home page of Windows Phone 7. The company says the new tiled interface “replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.”

Microsoft’s mobile Windows CE core operating system differs dramatically from its desktop Windows operating system, but the two will grow closer together in appearance as Windows 8 adopts a similar, top level interface to Windows Phone 7 and the Zune.

In contrast, Apple’s desktop Mac OS X and mobile iOS share the same core operating system and use optimized versions of the company’s proprietary Cocoa development platform to deliver native apps, but differ in the interface they present, with Mac OS X retaining a mouse-based windowing environment while iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad present a completely rethought, touch-based interface.

Microsoft’s own efforts to build a cohesive development environment for both the Windows CE-based Windows Mobile 6 and its desktop Windows XP/Vista/7 platform initially revolved around the company’s .Net APIs before shifting Windows Phone 7 to use Microsoft’s Adobe Flash-like Silverlight as its mobile app platform.

Now, Microsoft is announcing a new shift that leverages the interest in HTML5 to deliver “web-connected and web-powered” apps (similar to HP’s webOS platform acquired from Palm) that will run alongside legacy Windows apps on the forthcoming Windows 8. Microsoft says this approach “is designed and optimized for touch,” although the company also says “it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard.”

Ironically, the new HTML5 layer of Windows 8 works like the Dashboard layer of Mac OS X, although rather than only supplying quick assess to simple widgets, the new “Windows 8 apps” are intended to supply a layer of highly animated, full screen, touch-based apps capable of competing with native apps running on Apple’s iPad.

Like Apple’s iOS, Windows 8 is intended to be deployed on highly mobile devices such as ARM-based tablets in addition to the conventional PCs Windows has powered in the past. Unlike Apple’s iOS, which became instantly popular on the iPhone before expanding to the iPod touch and iPad, Microsoft’s tile-based Zune interface hasn’t yet found a significant, sustainable audience. After the Zune failed, Microsoft KIN and Windows Phone 7 have both found little interest among consumers.

Microsoft’s radical experimentation with Windows Vista in 2007 caused a negative backlash from Windows PC users, which has only settled down with the more conservative release of Windows 7. Sales of PCs have yet to rebound to levels prior to the release of Vista, and new mobile devices, in particular Apple’s iPad, have siphoned off a significant amount of demand among generic PCs.

Microsoft does have considerable clout among its developers and hardware makers however, and describes the new Windows 8 as its biggest risk yet, hoping the new release, due sometime over the next couple years, will bring it back into relevance among new generations of consumers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

New “MAC Defender” malware variant surfaces, works way around recent security update

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:10
Category: News, security, Software

Only one day after Apple released a security update for Mac OS X to address the “MAC Defender” malware, a new variant of the bogus antivirus software has been spotted in the wild.

Per ZDNet, the new variation of MAC Defender, named “Mdinstall.pkg,” has been crafted to bypass the new malware-blocking code made available by Apple. That update for Mac OS X, Security Update 2011-003, was released on Tuesday.

“The file has a date and time stamp from last night at 9:24PM Pacific time,” Bott wrote. That’s less than 8 hours after Apple’s security update was released. On a test system using Safari with default settings, it behaved exactly as before, beginning the installation process with no password required.

“As PC virus experts know, this cat-and-mouse game can go on indefinitely. Your move, Apple.”

Security Update 2011-003 included changes to the File Quarantine feature found in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. It includes anti-malware definitions within the operating system itself, and examines external files downloaded within Mail, iChat, Safari, or other quarantine-aware applications.

The MACDefender malware first gained attention in early May, when it was spotted by an antivirus company. The program automatically downloads in Web browsers through JavaScript and originally required users to enter an administrator password, but a more recent variant does not ask for a password.

Some reports have suggested that the “MAC Defender” malware has spread quickly, with Bott earlier citing an anonymous AppleCare representative that apparently said the “overwhelming majority” of recent calls to Apple were related to the malware. Last week, Apple posted instructions on its site informing users on how to remove the malware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VMWare releases Fusion 3.1.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 04:41
Category: News, Software

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Late Friday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 3.1.3 of its Fusion software for the Mac.

Similar to other virtualization software packages, VMWare allows users to run alternate operating systems such as Windows and Linux distributions on Intel-based Macs at native speeds. Other features, such as Unity, allow users to run and minimize Windows applications from the Mac OS X Dock.

The new version, a 150 megabyte download via MacUpdate, can be found here, offers the following new features and fixes:

- Microsoft Windows 7 Service Pack 1: Support for Windows 7 SP1 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Ubuntu: Support for Ubuntu 10.10 and 11.04 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Microsoft Office: Fixed a problem opening attachments in Outlook 2010.

- Video: Updated Windows WDDM driver with stability improvements.

- File access: Improved reliability accessing shared files on the Mac.

- Internet: Fixed slow first page loading in Internet Explorer 8.

- USB: Improved handling of smartphones including the Nokia N8.

Fusion 3.1.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and retails for US$79.99.

Apple, Google retain deal for map, search functionalities on iOS devices

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 03:34
Category: News, Software

The good news: The Google functionality on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad device isn’t going anywhere for a while.

Google Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt revealed Tuesday that his company had reached a deal with Apple to continue providing its maps and search technology for the iPhone.

Per Reuters, Schmidt, while speaking at the D9 conference organized by All Things D, said that Google’s relationship with Apple had gotten “rough” as competition between Android and iOS heated up, but they remained good partners in certain businesses.

Schmidt put to rest rumors that Apple planned to abandon Google’s maps and search technology in the iPhone. According to the executive, the two companies recently renewed their partnership to continue to provide services for the iPhone. “We just renewed our map and search agreements with Apple, and we hope those continue for a long time,” he said. Last year, it was suggested that Google pays Apple as much as US$100 million a year in a revenue sharing deal for searches made on the iPhone.

Schmidt also talked candidly about his company’s rivalry with Facebook. “We tried very hard to partner with Facebook ,” he noted. “They were unwilling to do the deal.” In hindsight, Schmidt said he would have pushed harder to compete with Facebook. “I screwed up,” he admitted.

Google co-founder Larry Page took over for Schmidt as CEO in April. Schmidt formerly served on Apple’s board of directors before stepping down due to a conflict of interest.

Apple does, however, appear to still be working on building out its own Maps team. In March, an Apple job listing was discovered for an iOS Maps Application Developer that would help “radically improve” Apple’s location-based services. Last year, Apple began using its own Maps location databases, though it still relies on Google for the maps themselves.

Last month, Apple revealed that it is collecting anonymous traffic data in order to build a “crowd-sourced traffic database,” though it was not immediately clear whether the use of the word “traffic” referred to network data or transportation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Security Update 2011-003, removes Mac Defender malware

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 03:15
Category: News, security, Software

Beating the expected arrival date (the Mac OS X 10.6.8 update had been anticipated to take care of this), Apple has released Security Update 2011-003, which adds malware detection and removal for the “MAC Defender” scam and delivers a daily update mechanism for updating subsequent malware definitions.

Per AppleInsider, the 2.3 megabyte security update for Mac OS X 10.6.7 is available as a direct download or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. Installing the update does not require a system reboot.

The update adds malware discovery and removal for MAC Defender and all of its known variants, using the simple malware file quarantine feature that was first added to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

The Mac OS X file quarantine feature examines external files downloaded within Mail, iChat, Safari or other file quarantine-aware applications, warning users of downloads that match the definition of malware.

In addition to adding a definition for the latest “MAC Defender” trojan horse to warn users that the download should be deleted, the new security update adds a daily malware definitions check to make subsequent malware attempts even easier for Apple to protect it users from.

Users can opt out of the daily malware definitions update check by unchecking the new “Automatically update safe downloads list” checkbox in Security Preferences.

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

Apple announces iCloud name, Steve Jobs keynote, other presentations for WWDC

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Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 05:43
Category: News

Apple announced on Tuesday that company CEO Steve Jobs will return to the stage, along with a team of company executives, to present Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and iOS 5 as well as introduce its new iCloud service.

Per AppleInsider, The Worldwide Developers Conference keynote will begin Monday, June 6 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. Apple confirmed that it will show off the now-officially-named iCloud, dubbed “Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.” No additional details were given.

Also set to be revealed by Jobs and Apple executives are Mac OS X 10.7, (a.k.a., “Lion”), the eighth major release of Mac OS X, and iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The conference will feature more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers. Mac developers will see and learn how to develop world-class Mac OS X Lion applications using its latest technologies and capabilities. Mobile developers will be able to explore the latest innovations and capabilities of iOS and learn how to greatly enhance the functionality, performance and design of their apps. All developers can bring their code to the labs and work with Apple engineers.

Though Tuesday marks the first official confirmation of the iCloud service, its existence was hardly a secret. The company acquired the iCloud.com domain name for an estimated US$4.5 million in April.

The iCloud service is expected to replace the existing MobileMe cloud service, which offers e-mail and syncing of contacts and calendars.

A major new component of iCloud is expected to be a music streaming service that will allow users to access their music library from any Internet-connected device, like an iPhone, without the need to save music files locally on the device. It is expected that the product will scan users’ iTunes libraries and then mirror them with Apple’s own high-quality audio files stored in the cloud.

The picture for Lion is slightly more clear, as Apple first showed off the Mac software update last October and preview releases of the software have been provided to developers. Lion will bring iOS features “back to the Mac,” including home screens, tighter integration with the Mac App Store, new multi-touch gestures, and full-screen applications that auto-save and auto-resume.

As for iOS 5, both it and Mac OS X Lion are rumored to have deep connectivity with the new iCloud service. Numerous reports have claimed that iOS 5 will offer improved voice commands, but the software is not expected to be unveiled alongside new iPhone hardware. Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone is expected to show up sometime later this year, and not at WWDC.

A more recent iOS 5 rumor from last week suggested that Apple also plans to add widgets to its mobile operating system. It was also said that Apple plans to revamp its notification system, a part of the operating system that has been heavily criticized when compared to competing platforms like Google Android and HP’s Palm webOS.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

MacBook Air supplies running low prior to anticipated Sandy Bridge, Thunderbolt port refresh

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 04:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

It’s when the current supplies run low that the interesting stuff tends to be around the corner.

Per 9to5Mac, sources have stated that supplies of the MacBook Air are dwindling ahead of an expected refresh for the product line.

Back in April, it was reported that new MacBook Air models were likely to be on the horizon, perhaps launching in June.

However, the most significant additions to the new MacBook Airs are likely to be Sandy Bridge processors and Thunderbolt ports.

Many of the MacBook Air’s rivals in the thin-and-light category such as MSI, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung are either already using Sandy Bridge processors or are about to introduce them.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.