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Skype WiFi out the door, focuses on offering cheap Internet access abroad

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 18th, 2011, 06:44
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

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You asked for a cheap way to communicate on the road and Skype seems to have something to offer…

Per AppleInsider, Skype on Wednesday released a new iOS application that will offer iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users access to over 1 million WiFi hotspots around the globe for a nominal pay-as-you-go basis.

The Skype WiFi application offers those on the go an alternative to pricey international data plans, which can fetch around US$25 for just 20MB worth of downloads, by allowing them to connect to locally available WiFi hotspots for as little as 6 cents per minute.

Skype says it is working with a third party WiFi operators to provide access to “over 1 million WiFi hotspots around the world, including hotels, airports, train stations, convention centers, bars and restaurants,” thus eliminating extra data roaming costs or other WiFi voucher purchases.

The application itself — previously known as Skype Access — is available as a free download from the App Store, but requires that users purchase Skype Credits in order to connect to one of the supported hotspots.

Prices for access to Skype WiFi hotspots start at US$0.06/4p/€0,05 (inclusive of VAT) and there is no data cap in place, which means iPhone, iPod and iPod touch users can use the same hotspot connection without worrying about any traffic limitations.

In order to promote the app’s launch, Skype said it plans to offer up to 60 minutes (or four 15-minute sessions) of free internet access for each unique Skype ID starting Saturday, August 20, 00:00 BST until Sunday, August 21, 23:59BST.

Skype WiFi requires iOS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the new app and have any feedback to offer, let us know what you think in the comments.

Delta to begin testing iPad units in “electronic flight bag” capacity for crew members

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 18th, 2011, 06:44
Category: iPad, News

Have iPad, will travel.

Per Flightglobal, Delta Airlines has started testing iPads as electronic flight bags domestically, in order to evaluate the viability of replacing printed on-board manuals and other information with digital versions and custom iOS applications.

The airline is interested in “digitizing on-board flight information that has typically been printed out,” Flightglobal has found out, and the company will start using Apple’s iPad as an electronic flight bag (EFB) in a limited testing phase that includes 22 devices.

The iPads will be preloaded with manuals, charts, and specific iOS applications that would help pilots receive updated information or compute various calculations otherwise done by hand.

“We’re loading Jeppesen Mobile TC charting software, a GoodReader document viewer that contains all of our manuals in an electronic format, and the Journey browser, which allows access to iCrew,” Delta Senior Vice President Steve Dickson said. “A Delta Meteorology app provides access to pilot-tailored graphical weather information and real-time looped Delta radar. Each pilot will have access to their Delta e-mail account and calendar.”

Other preloaded tools include a writing app, a web browser, a PDF viewer, a Wi-Fi finder app as well as “crew rest and cruise rest period calculators.” Although all 22 iPads will have the same suite of Delta apps installed, the pilots will have the opportunity to install any additional aviation applications as required during the test period.

Delta aims to bring instant wireless communications capabilities to its flights and a tablet like the iPad could provide such capabilities to current crews and even take part in changing the training process for Delta’s pilots. During this process the company will use both Wi-Fi and 3G+Wi-Fi iPad models.

The test will check whether the iPad solution works for users who are less familiar with technology. “Roughly a quarter of our testers rated themselves as ‘tech un-savvy,'” Delta said. “We need to make sure a solution is user friendly to any pilot, no matter their IT skill level while providing us a top of the line product that gives us long term expansion capabilities.”

Domestic passengers on the airline already have access, for a fee, to Gogo Wi-Fi in-flight connectivity, and the company is also exploring adding such capabilities to its international flights.

Once the iPad testing is complete, the airline will swap Apple’s tablet with Android Honeycomb devices. 16 Motorola Xooms will then be used as EFBs in a new trial run starting with mid-September.

The FAA has already authorized the use of Apple’s iPad as EFBs. Both American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have started to replace paper manuals, which weigh as much as 40 pounds, with iPads preloaded with all the information required by pilots during flights in a similar endeavor to remove all on-board paper and use tablets containing all the required flight data instead.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve used in-air Wi-Fi before and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Controversy surfaces over Kagi’s VisualHub updater

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, 11:41
Category: News, Software

There’s good news and bad news.

The good news: VisualHub, a beloved video converter utility that exported to roughly nine zillion formats but was discontinued in 2008, has been updated with support from the author.

The bad news: It apparently wasn’t updated in a way that the author, Tyler Loch, approved of. Per Macworld, Kagi, a popular payment processor for independent software developers, recently began selling a US$5 Lion-compatibility patch for the discontinued-in-2008 VisualHub video converter that Loch stated he didn’t authorize—and isn’t getting paid for. Kagi has taken steps to defend the move, arguing that it’s merely helping less tech-savvy customers that the developer abandoned.

Though Loch no longer offers support for VisualHub, Loch did post updated files and instructions for getting VisualHub to work under Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”).

After receiving complaints from customers about Lion compatibility, however, Kagi—VisualHub’s former payment processor—decided to offer its own vHub Updater for VisualHub patch for US$5, without informing Loch.

Per the article, representatives from Kagi explained that the US$5 updater Kagi now sells merely wraps the updates that Loch offers on his own site in a more usable interface. Loch’s instructions for updating VisualHub require copying a trio of AppleScript files into the app’s package contents; he also recommends installing an updated copy of the open source conversion utility ffmpeg.

The Kagi app “downloads his patches, and we also download the new ffmpeg,” installing all necessary files without additional user involvement. The updater avoids altering your original copy of VisualHub, instead creating a duplicate application called “VisualHub Lion.”

At this point, there’s a significant amount of back and forth between Loch and Kagi, representatives from Kagi stating that, with regard to the vHub Updater, “we would be pleased if Tyler was to release an updater that performs the function that our vHub Updater performs,” Nethery said. “His users deserve better than to be completely abandoned in 2008 and to be asked to be technical enough to edit an application package. We just want the customers to get the support they deserve.”

For his part, Loch pointed out that—though open-source forks of the code at the center of VisualHub exist—“VisualHub, as it exists in the world, is not. I gave no permission and had no prior knowledge of Kagi hosting, redistributing, and indirectly selling the components I wrote in [vHub Updater].”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent Apple patent shows move to build wireless antennas into Mac keyboards

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, 03:46
Category: News, Patents

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The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted Apple a batch of 20 patents on Tuesday, including one for an invention that describes integrating wireless antennas into a keyboard.

Per AppleInsider, the filing entitled “Antennas for electronic devices,” describes “key antennas,” or radio-frequency transmitters mounted inside individual keys of a keyboard, for devices such as a laptop computer. Apple suggests that fitting a key with an antenna resonating element, such as a flex circuit containing a strip of conductor, a piece of stamped metal foil and a length of wire, could serve as an improved antenna design.

Possible advantages from the invention include a more pleasing appearance by avoiding protruding antennas and reduced risk of damage to the antenna. According to the application, the antenna would function better when the key was not being pressed because of an “increase in separation” between the antenna and the conductive housing of the device.

Apple also suggests that the key antenna could include an indicator light, such as the one found on the “caps lock” key.

One embodiment of the invention would utilize the keyboard to add wireless functionality to a non-wireless device by way of a wired connection. The keyboard could also be used to extend wireless capabilities of another device after being wirelessly coupled with it.

The invention lists Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as possible communications methods, though it also references the use of the patent with “other types of communications links,” such as GPS and 3G data.

Apple filed for the patent on Apr. 2, 2008. Chris Ligtenberg, Brett William Degner and Douglas Blake Kough are credited as the inventors.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.7.1 update

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 14:34
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released Mac OS X 10.7.1, the update to its recently-released Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” operating system. The update, a 79.1 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

– Address an issue that may cause the system to become unresponsive when playing a video in Safari.

– Resolve an issue that may cause system audio to stop working when using HDMI or optical audio out.

– Improve the reliability of Wi-Fi connections.

– Resolve an issue that prevents transfer of your data, settings, and compatible applications to a new Mac running OS X Lion.

The update can be located, downloaded and installed via the Software Update feature in Mac OS X.

Mac OS X 10.7.1 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 to install and run.

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

Apple begins selling $69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB thumb drive

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 06:11
Category: News, retail, Software

If you don’t have a killer broadband connection, then this can’t hurt.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is now selling the US$69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB install drive in its online store.

Buying Lion on a physical medium from Apple’s online store carries a price more than twice that of the digital download. The drive ships for free in one to three business days.

“OS X Lion is available on a USB thumb drive for installation without the need for a broadband Internet connection,” Apple’s official product description reads. “Just plug the drive into your USB port and follow the instructions to install. OS X Lion is also available for a lower price as a digital download from the Mac App Store.”

In addition to the lower price, Apple also incentivized users to buy Lion from the Mac App Store buy giving it a month’s head start over the USB thumb drive. The 3.49GB operating system install became available for download on July 20.

The product also comes with an “Important Note” from Apple: “When you install OS X Lion using the USB thumb drive, you will not be able to reinstall OS X Lion from Lion Recovery. You will need to use the USB thumb drive to reinstall OS X Lion.”

Lion marks the first operating system release from Apple where a download is the preferred install method. AppleInsider was first to report in May that Apple planned to push users toward buying through the Mac App Store.

The last version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, also carried at US$29.99 price tag, but its default distribution method was on a physical DVD. When Apple redesigned its thin-and-light MacBook Air in 2010, it came with a USB thumb drive to reinstall Snow Leopard, as Apple began to move away from disc drives in its Mac lineup.

Apple did not reveal until Lion became available on the Mac App Store in July that a USB thumb drive would be sold in August. But the company also noted that users who do not have broadband access at home, work or school can download the multi-gigabyte install file from the Mac App Store at its retail stores at no extra cost.

If you’ve snagged the thumb drive and have any feedback to offer about the install, let us know what you think in the comments.

Appearance: PPUG meets Saturday in Philadelphia

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 20:47
Category: News

http://thescene.s3.amazonaws.com/pics/bar/2/51481/profile/1205061797294_272.jpgThe Philadelphia PowerBook User Group (PPUG) meets this Saturday, August 20, 2011 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the Manayunk Brewing Company along the beautiful Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, PA.

At PPUG we like to survey the mobile technology landscape and review the latest in Apple and mobile gear.

I’ll be at Saturday’s meeting with Bob Snow, Youngmoo Kim and David Berg to talk about the new Mid-2011 MacBook Air and Mac mini but mostly about Lion – an upgrade that everyone can sink their teeth into.

As always, bring your new gadgets and software to show and tell and feel free to bring items to sell or swap as well. Join us for lunch (or a brew) while we talk mobile computing. It’s a great meeting that’s free and open to you and your guests.

Manayunk Brewing Company
4120 Main Street
Philadelphia, PA 19127
215.482.8220

VirtualBox updated to 4.1.2

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 10:11
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.1.2. The new version, a 88.9 megabyte download, sports an extensive list of changes that can be found here.

VirtualBox 4.1.2 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.4 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.

2007 MacBook Pro prototype with 3G modem, SIM card, surfaces on eBay

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 06:59
Category: 3G Wireless, MacBook Pro, News

It’s a bit odd but it could be something.

Per MacRumors, a 15-inch MacBook Pro from the 2007 Santa Rosa processor era has recently appeared on eBay, originally purchased from Craigslist for parts. The unit, strangely enough, surfaced “with a 3G antenna, 3G hardware and SIM card slot built in.”



“Upon removing the top case it was immediately clear this was no normal Macbook Pro: the circuit boards inside were bright red as opposed to the normal blue!” writes the eBay seller, whose prototype is currently up to more than US$11,000.

“Further inspection found multiple differences from the stock version, most notably a feature never seen in a Macbook laptop of any kind: what appears to be a fully integrated cellular modem and SIM slot. There is an extendable cellular antenna located at the right top side of the display assembly (The antenna is marked with ‘Tyco Proto / #006’ when slid out), and a standard size SIM card slot located underneath the memory cover on the bottom of the machine. The SIM card board is connected to the logic board via a connector not found on production machines. The solder footprint for it is still present on the production boards and not populated, which is interesting.”

“This would seem to suggest that it was a last minute decision to remove the cellular functionality before going into mass production,” the seller concludes. “The optical drive is marked as a ‘Sample for Evaluation.’ Rather than a normal EMC Number the specifications lapel simply says ‘XXXX,’ and the serial number does not show up in Apple’s online database.”

The good news is that the seller was able to repair the machine to working condition, although the 3G modem “is not presently functional,” despite being seen by the operating system. The inclusion of a SIM card means the 3G would have been GSM-bound, “allowing for use on AT&T and many other international networks.”

Cool stuff from a generation of hardware ago…

The auction ends on August 20th, so be sure to get your bids in now if you want a shot at the unit.

Mozilla releases Firefox 6.0 update

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 03:59
Category: News, Software

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Late Sunday, Mozilla.org released version 6.0 of its Firefox web browser. The new version stands as an 28.1 megabyte download offered the following fixes and changes:

– The address bar now highlights the domain of the website you’re visiting.

– Streamlined the look of the site identity block.

– Added support for the latest draft version of WebSockets with a prefixed API.

– Added support for EventSource / server-sent events.

– Added support for window.matchMedia.

– Added Scratchpad, an interactive JavaScript prototyping environment.

– Added a new Web Developer menu item and moved development-related items into it.

– Improved usability of the Web Console.

– Improved the discoverability of Firefox Sync.

– Reduced browser startup time when using Panorama.

Firefox 6.0 requires an Intel-based Mac and Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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