Adobe releases Flash Player 11.2.202.221 release candidate

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Date: Thursday, March 1st, 2012, 08:28
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Adobe released its Flash Player 11.1.102.62 release candidate for Mac OS X. The update, a 10.7 megabyte download via MacUpdate, includes the following fixes and changes:

– Multithreaded Video Decoding (Windows, Mac OS, Linux)* – This release introduces a new fully multithreaded video decoding pipeline which resolves a number of legacy playback issues. This modern architecture will also enable future performance enhancements across all platforms.

– Mouse lock, relative mouse coordinates, right and middle click events – Infinite scrolling and new mouse events to enable first-person shooter experiences.

– Drivers gating for hardware acceleration relaxed to 1/1/2008*** Throttling event**** – This release introduces a new ThrottleEvent.

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

HandBrake updated to 0.9.6

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Date: Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, 08:26
Category: News, Software


Handbrake, Eric Petit’s incredibly useful open-source DVD ripping/conversion utility, has been updated to version 0.9.6.

The new version, a 7.1 megabyte download, offers a wide variety of fixes and changes that have been documented here.

HandBrake 0.9.6 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

Apple releases MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.8 for late 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 16:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Tuesday, Apple released MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.8 for its late 2008, 15-inch MacBook Pro notebooks. The update a 3 megabyte download, resolves a graphics issue that may cause the internal display to flicker.

The update requires Mac OS X 10.5.8, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

As always, if you’ve tried the new firmware and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple confirms iPad 3 event for March 7 in San Francisco

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 13:18
Category: Hardware, iPad, News

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As nifty as rumors tend to be, it helps to hear the truth from the horse’s mouth.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday sent out official invitations for a media event to be held next Wednesday, March 7, in San Francisco where it is expected to introduce its next-generation iPad.

The March 7 event will be held at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif., the same place the last two iPad unveilings have been held. The invitation features a finger pushing down on an iOS calendar icon with March 7 as the date.

“We have something you really have to see. And touch,” the invitation reads.

The inclusion that people will “have to see” the new device is likely a reference to the high-resolution Retina Display that Apple is expected to add to its next-generation iPad. Rumors have suggested the display will have a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, which would be twice the resolution of the 1,024-by-768 screen found on the iPad 2.

In fact, the invitation itself could even be a picture of the new iPad display. The image does show a very crisp iPad screen that could be a higher resolution than the current iPad 2.

Apple’s invitations went out only moments after financial network CNBC incorrectly claimed that the next iPad would be unveiled at an event in New York next week. However, reporter Jon Fortt quickly followed up to explain that he has heard that New York will play a “key” role in next week’s announcement.

The March 7 event date has been expected for weeks now, but Tuesday’s invitations were the first official confirmation of the media briefing from Apple. Recent reports out of the Far East have suggested that Apple could offer near-immediate availability of the new iPad, with claims that the new devices are already being shipped to the U.S as retailers cut prices of existing iPad 2 models by US$50 to US$70.

Other changes to the iPad are expected to be largely internal, with evidence of a faster processor and potential 4G LTE connectivity having surfaced in recent weeks. On the outside, the next iPad is expected to look largely the same, with an external case featuring edges slightly more tapered than the iPad 2.

Another leak showed a purported “iPad 3” logic board, featuring a processor labeled “A5X,” suggesting the chip could be a more powerful version of the A5 CPU currently found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S rather than a full-fledged “A6” upgrade. Reports have also been divided as to whether the next iPad will be powered by a quad-core processor or a dual-core CPU.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Sprint expected to stay with iPhone, trade off subsidized prices for lucrative contracts

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 07:07
Category: iPhone, News

Even if your profits are down, this is no reason not to back your winning horse.

Per the Barrons.com blog, despite expecting a decline in wireless profits due to the high subsidy cost associated with carrying the iPhone, Sprint plans to exceed its US$15.5 billion minimum purchase agreement with Apple and looks to make up for the profit loss with subscriber revenue.

In the Monday filing of Sprint’s 10-K report for the 2011 fiscal year, it was revealed that the company is betting on subscriber dues to offset an expected 2012 deficit from the agreement with Apple, which called for a minimum order of around US$15.5 billion worth of high-subsidy iPhones.

During 2011, the company entered into a purchase commitment with Apple, Inc. to purchase a minimum number of smartphones, which on average, is expected to carry a higher subsidy per unit than other smartphones we sell.

Sprint’s plan is to take a hit in profits early by purchasing and subsidizing iPhones, then reap the benefits yielded from subscribers with lucrative smartphone contracts. There is evidence that the strategy may be working, as the carrier sold 1.8 million iPhones over the holiday quarter, 40 percent of which were to new subscribers. In contrast, iPhone activations at the top two U.S. carriers Verizon and AT&T stood at 4.2 million and 7.6 million, respectively.

Carriers pay heavy subsidies to carry the iPhone, and Sprint is currently paying US$450 for every unit sold with a two-year contract. On top of what the company calls an “instant savings,” Sprint is the only carrier in the U.S. to offer unlimited data for any iPhone model.

The nation’s third-largest mobile carrier was the last of the “big three” networks to get the iPhone, and only started selling the device in October, 2011 when the newest iPhone 4S was debuted. Combined launch-day sales of the iPhone 4S and last-generation iPhone 4 helped set a new one-day record for Sprint, and the product line continues to draw in new customers.

Previous reports called the iPhone agreement a “bet the company” move, and estimated that the telecom would have to put up US$20 billion for rights to sell the popular Apple handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel to delay launch of Ivy Bridge processors by 8-10 weeks

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 08:19
Category: News, Processors

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You know, nobody really LIKES the person who tells them “better late than never”, even though that person tends to be right.

That being said, Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, sized at 22 nanometers and expected to appear in Apple’s updated Mac lineup, will become available eight to 10 weeks later than originally planned, one company official has said.

Per the Financial Times, Sean Maloney, executive vice president and chairman of Intel China, revealed in an interview with the Financial Times that his company’s Ivy Bridge processors are now expected to go on sale in June. Those CPUs were originally planned to become available in April.

The apparent delay will allow Intel more time to manufacture the smaller, more complex chips. Maloney indicated that a later June launch was not prompted by a lack of demand.

The comments support a rumor from earlier this month that indicated Intel was forced to push back shipments of its Ivy Bridge processors to June. However, that same report claimed that a “small volume” of chips would be shipped in early April.

Earlier reports had suggested that Intel planned to debut a total of 25 new 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge processors at launch. They would include 17 desktop CPUs and 8 notebook processors.

Initial chips are expected to include models 3820QM, rumored to be priced at US$568, and 3720QM, US$378, both of which are potential candidates for an updated MacBook Pro.

Reports from late last year suggested Apple was planning to launch its updated MacBook Pro lineup in the second quarter of 2012>. It was said the Ivy Bridge-powered notebooks would feature a Retina Display-quality screen resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 pixels, exactly twice that of the 1,440-by-900 display currently found on the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Retina Display MacBook Pros would be possible with Ivy Bridge because Intel’s next-generation chip architecture will bring support for 4K resolution. That gives Apple and other PC makers the option to build a display that is 4,096 pixels across, at a resolution more than twice that of 1080p.

The new Ivy Bridge notebook processors will feature Intel HD Graphics 4000 architecture. High-end MacBook Pros with dedicated graphics are rumored to be powered by Nvidia in Apple’s 2012 lineup.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T customer wins in 3G throttling case, could open floodgates for similar lawsuits against carrier

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:18
Category: 3G Wireless, iPhone, Legal, News

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Sometimes you CAN fight the giant and win.

Per the Associated Press, in a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone’s download speed due to high usage was awarded US$850 on claims that the telecom’s throttling measures are unfair to consumers.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unfairly reduces unlimited data plan users’ bandwidth speeds.

The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T’s smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.

The nation’s second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T’s tiered options.

As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple’s handset and smartphones running Google’s Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of “heavy users.”

An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.

In Spaccarelli’s case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T’s network costs US$30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run US$20, US$30 and US$50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.

According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.

In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.

The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for US$85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.

In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.

AT&T’s attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won’t know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.

So, let the floodgates open. If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Apple releases iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0, hopes to resolve wake/reconnection issue

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:41
Category: iMac, News, Software

The firmware updates, they keep on rolling in.

Late Friday, Apple released iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0, a 25.8 megabyte download that resolves an issue that may cause an iMac to not automatically connect to a known Wi-Fi network after waking from sleep. It is recommended for all iMac (Late 2009 or newer) users running 10.7.3.

The firmware update is available either via direct download or through Mac OS X’s Software Update feature on a qualifying iMac.

If you’ve tried the iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0 upgrade and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases firmware updates for early and late 2011 MacBook Pro, mid-2011 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 18:11
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released firmware updates for its early and late 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks as well as its mid-2011 MacBook Air Notebooks.

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.7, a 4.1 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Pro (Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (Late 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.4, a 3 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Air (Mid 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

The updates can be directly downloaded and installed or located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

As always, if you’ve tried the new firmware updates and have either positive or negative feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Intego announces discovery of “Flashback.G” trojan variant, advises caution

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 12:21
Category: News, security, Software

On Thursday, security firm Intego announced that it has discovered more strains of the Flashback Trojan horse. The company says that “many Mac users have been infected by this malware,” especially the latest variant, Flashback.G.

Per Macworld, Intego describes three unique methods that the Trojan horse uses to infect Macs: It attempts to exploit a pair of Java vulnerabilities in sequence, which the company says allows infection with no further user intervention. Failing those two approaches, resorts to social engineering. In that last case, the applet presents a self-signed digital certificate, falsely claiming that the certificate is “signed by Apple Inc”; if you click Continue, the malware installs itself.

To fall victim to the Flashback Trojan horse, you first need to run software. By definition, Trojan horses disguise themselves as other kinds of software, tricking the user into, say, double-clicking an icon to launch a new download—thereby infecting themselves. Note, however, that if you’re still running Snow Leopard and your Java installation isn’t current, a maliciously-coded webpage could cause the malware to install without further intervention on your part, depending on your browser’s security settings.

According to Intego, the latest Flashback.G variant can inject code into Web browsers and other applications that connect to the Internet, often causing them to crash. It attempts to sniff out usernames and passwords that you enter into many popular sites (like banking sites, Google, PayPal, and others), presumably so that the malfeasants behind the software can exploit that information in other ways.

As part of its installation process, the malware puts an invisible file in the /Users/Shared/ folder; that file’s name is variable, but it uses a .so extension. Other files the malware creates include /Users/Shared/.svcdmp, ~/.MACOSX/environment.plist, and ~/Library/Logs/vmLog. It also places a Java applet in ~/Library/Caches.

Intego has stated that its VirusBarrier X6 software can detect Flashback if it’s installed, and even prevent it from installing in the first place.

If you suspect you’ve already been infected, you can check by launching Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities/) and pasting in the code below, and pressing Return:

ls /Users/Shared/.*.so
If the response you see in Terminal includes “No such file or directory,” you’re in the clear. If you instead see a list of one or more files with a .so extension and no “no such file” declaration, you may well have fallen victim to the malware.

If you do find that you’re infected, removing the files referenced above or installing antivirus software like Intego’s should remove any traces of Flashback.

If you’ve seen this trojan on your end or tried this fix, please let us know in the comments.