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Apple releases pricing details for iCloud storage

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Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 04:34
Category: News, Software

Apple on Monday unveiled more details about its forthcoming iCloud syncing service, including details on pricing. Per Macworld, Apple CEO Steve Jobs had previously declared that Apple device users would get 5GB of iCloud storage for free with the option to add an additional 10GB (a total of 15GB) for US$20 per year, 25GB for US$40 per year, or 55GB for US$100 per year.

In comparison, cloud-storage service Dropbox offers 2GB of storage for free, 50GB for US$120 per year and 100GB for US$240 per year.

Also on Monday, Apple launched a developer beta of iCloud.com, which gives registered developers an early preview of the company’s iOS-like Web apps for iCloud-synced email, contacts, calendars, iWork, and Find My iPhone.

Apple still hasn’t said precisely when iCloud will become available to the masses, but the service is strongly tied to iOS 5, which the company promises will arrive “this fall.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Onyx 2.3.0 released

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Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 04:04
Category: News, Software

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Onyx, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.3.0. The new version, a 18.8 megabyte download (courtesy of MacUpdate), adds the following fixes and changes:

- Bug while deleting the Safari cookies corrected.

- Some little improvements.

Onyx 2.3.0 requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

Apple TV 4.3.3 update out the door, adds functionality for playing purchased videos, Vimeo content

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Date: Monday, August 1st, 2011, 13:45
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

If there’s one universal truth, it’s this: updates are nifty.

Per Macworld, Apple on Monday released iOS 4.3.3 for its second-generation Apple TV set top device. Up until now, you could stream any TV shows purchased from the iTunes Store housed on a computer using Apple’s Home Sharing feature or via AirPlay. Both, however, require that the computer be turned on and accessible on your network—and that the files themselves are still on your hard drive. With this latest update, any TV shows you’ve purchased (or downloaded, in the case of free TV show episodes) are instantly available to stream over the Internet as what appears to be an extension of Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud functionality.

Under the TV Shows menu on the Apple TV’s home screen, you’ll now find a Purchased item at the top.

The update also adds support for playing videos from Vimeo, a popular video-sharing website that offers HD hosting.

Apple now includes directly Vimeo upload support in both its iMovie and Final Cut Pro X video-editing applications, so including a viewing option on the Apple TV is both natural and welcome.

To update your Apple TV to the latest software, go to Settings -> General -> Update Software and follow the directions.

At the same time, Apple added the ability to re-download TV shows in iTunes and on iOS devices, as it already does with music, books, and apps.

If you’ve tried the new update on your second-generation Apple TV, let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Adobe announce Edge 1.0 HTML 5 creation tool, offers preview for free

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Date: Monday, August 1st, 2011, 05:27
Category: News, Software

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Sometimes you have to transition to the next thing.

Per Adobe’s blog, Adobe has released a free public preview of Edge, a new motion and interaction design tool that lets users build Flash-style animated Web content using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Edge is planned for commercial release sometime next year and is designed to work in concert with the company’s existing professional design tools—Dreamweaver CS5.5, Flash Professional CS5.5, and Flash Builder 4.5 (as well as earlier versions)—is targeted to designers seeking an efficient way to use Web standards like HTML to create content featuring motion and transitions.

The application works natively with HTML and lets users add motion to existing HTML documents without altering the design or CSS-based layout. Users can also import standard Web graphics such as SVG, PNG, JPG, and GIF files and style them using CSS3. It also lets users create visually rich content from scratch with familiar drawing tools that produce HTML elements styled with CSS3.

The design stage (the workspace in Edge) uses WebKit to enable content design, preview, and manipulation. The timeline offers advanced techniques to boost productivity and precision in creating animations, and lets users define and customize motion applied to HTML elements, Adobe says.

Content created with Edge is designed to work on browsers such as Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. Edge content can also be viewed on mobile devices running iOS, Android, BlackBerry Playbook, and HP webOS.

Adobe Edge is immediately available worldwide for Mac and Windows and requires Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7 or later to install and run the application.

AT&T to throttle data for top five percent of user base

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 14:06
Category: iPhone, News

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There’s a price to pay for using a ton of data on your iPhone plan…

Per Macworld, AT&T announced late on Friday that it will begin throttling data throughput for heavy users of its unlimited smartphone data plans beginning on October 1.

According to the wireless provider, data throttling will affect only those smartphone customers on an unlimited data plan who fall into the top 5 percent of data consumption. Once users are counted among that number, their data speed will be reduced, but their overall capacity won’t be touched—they can still consume as much data as they want, just at a slower speed.

Unfortunately, AT&T isn’t alone in that decision. In February, Verizon Wireless announced it too would throttle the top 5 percent of its smartphone data users. At the time, Verizon was offering unlimited data plans; earlier this month, it switched to a tiered model similar to AT&T.

An AT&T spokesman stated that it isn’t specifying a hard and fast data threshold that will signal the speed reduction—likely because data consumption patterns will shift from month to month. That seems to mean that the top 5 percent of smartphone customers in any given month will likely see their data speeds throttled, despite how much data they actually use. However, in its statement on the matter the carrier says it will provide notices and a grace period before imposing the speed reductions, and the customers will find their data speed returned to normal at the beginning of the subsequent billing period.

AT&T points to specific type of data most likely to trigger high levels of data consumption, such as streaming very large amounts of video and audio and transferring large files over the cellular network. The company suggests instead using Wi-Fi for these purposes, especially since its customers get free access to the company’s network of 26,000 hotspots around the country.

Smartphone customers subscribed to one of AT&T’s tiered data plans—the US$15 per month 200MB plan and US$25 per month 2GB plan—will not be affected by the data throttling. So if speed is the ultimate concern—and you don’t mind paying for additional data capacity on your smartphone plan—AT&T suggests you can always switch to a tiered plan.

This isn’t the first time AT&T has tried to get unlimited data customers to shift to its tiered data plans, which it introduced last summer. Prior to then, unlimited data was the norm for iPhone customers; upon tweaking its plan, AT&T also introduced the much-awaited ability to tether the iPhone’s 3G connection to a laptop—but only for users of its tiered plans.

According to AT&T, the decision to throttle the heaviest data users is part of a plan to combat “a serious wireless spectrum crunch.” Data throttling is only one part of the moves AT&T says it is making, with the company also investing money in building our its wireless network as well as trying to “acquire additional network capacity.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV units moving briskly, no signs of updated models for Q3

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 10:42
Category: Apple TV, News

Albeit not as popular as some of its other products, the Apple TV unit seems to be achieving moderate success, selling roughly 500,000 units per quarter as the 2011 holiday shopping season approaches.

The latest update to Apple’s US$99 streaming media box arrived last fall and within just a few months went on to sell a million units. Even so, Apple has provided no update on sales of the device. Per AppleInsider, Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo tells has stated that his industry checks indicate the company shipped 480,000 units during the second calendar quarter of the year, representing more than 70% year-over-year growth.

Although Apple continues to see Internet television devices as a nascent category, frequently referring to the Apple TV as a “hobby,” when sales of the device are pit against its peers, the Apple TV appears to be a runaway success.

For instance, Logitech said this week that “very modest sales” of its US$249 Google TV-based Revue set-top-box were exceeded by returns of the product from unhappy customers, prompting the company to slash pricing by 66% to match Apple TV’s US$99 price point.

The move will reportedly cost the device maker some US$34 million in one-time charges as it hopes to “remove price as a barrier to broad consumer adoption.” The failed partnership with Google also contributed to a US$29.6 million loss for Logitech during its fiscal first quarter, prompting the exist of chief executive Gerald P. Quindlen.

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, Kuo said his industry checks have turned up no evidence that Apple plans push a hardware revision to the Apple TV into production during the third quarter. Instead, the Cupertino-based company will reportedly take a more measured approach to advancing the platform in 2011, relying instead on an Apple TV Software Update this fall that will allow devices such as the iPad 2 and upcoming iPhone 5 to beam their content to the big-screen.

The technology, dubbed AirPlay, essentially allows devices equipped with Apple’s A5 processor and the forthcoming iOS 5.0 update to mirror their video content from supporting applications to HDTVs hooked up to an Apple TV. While ideal for sharing video with friends and family, the feature is even more significant for Apple’s encroachment on the gaming market, as it will allow any iOS game developer to offer console-style gaming (demos below) by which the the iPhone or iPad transforms into a wireless controller, equipped with gyro sensors and touch-screen controls.

Even so, Apple continues to struggle with the second prong of its Apple TV strategy: HD video content. Unlike the inaugural Apple TV that offered a trove of archived television content priced between US$2 and US$3 an episode, the company continues to face opposition from networks who feel the new Apple TV’s US$0.99 per episode HD rental model devalues their content, according to people familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, Apple has failed to reach licensing agreements with content producers that would have them join Fox and partner Disney, for which Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is a director and largest individual shareholder, in providing their television content to Apple TV users. As such, Apple is now reportedly in talks to grow its streaming video business through a potential acquisition of Hulu, an ad-supported streaming service that offers video content from NBC, ABC, USA, Bravo, FX, A&E, and numerous other television networks.

“[W]e love the product. It’s clear that customers love the product,” Apple chief operating office Tim Cook said this month of the Apple TV. “We really guided right when we went to the new Apple TV just last fall. But right now, it’s still a hobby status that we’re continuing to invest in it because we think that there is something there.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

MacBook Air examined, found to be using scaled-down Thunderbolt controller

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 06:28
Category: MacBook Air, News

The new MacBook Air is getting positive feedback and being regarded as nifty.

And the cool nerds at AnandTech found out why.

Per AnandTech, Apple is using a scaled-down “Eagle Ridge” controller chip from Intel instead of the “Light Ridge” chip found in larger Thunderbolt-enabled machines.

Eagle Ridge is available in two form factors (normal and SFF [small form factor]) and is effectively half of a Light Ridge chip. That means you only get two Thunderbolt channels and one DP output. Apple used the small form factor version of Eagle Ridge in its new MacBook Air to cut cost and save on motherboard real estate.

With Eagle Ridge only supporting a single DisplayPort output, MacBook Air users are only able to drive a single external display via the Thunderbolt port, although the machine’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 would also preclude the use of two external monitors on the MacBook Air as it does on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Thunderbolt adoption has thus far been limited to high-end devices in part due to high costs associated with inclusion of the technology. Use of the scaled-down Eagle Ridge controller could help push Thunderbolt into lower-end products, presuming that the smaller chip carries some cost savings for manufacturers.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on a brand new MacBook Air, let us know what you make of it via the comments.

Forthcoming Microsoft Office 2011 update to add support for Mac OS X 10.7 feature base

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 12:25
Category: News, Software

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The good news: Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) is out.

The bad news: Not all of Microsoft’s products support all of the Mac OS X 10.7 feature base.

Still, there may be hope on the horizon.

Per the Office for Mac blog, Microsoft has revealed that a forthcoming update for Office for Mac 2011 will add support for new features in Mac OS X 10.7, including versions, auto-save and full-screen.

Pat Fox of the Office for Mac team wrote on the company’s official blog this week that inquiries about those features have been the “most common question” for users of late. The Microsoft team is said to be “working hard with Apple” to enable the features.

“I know your next question will be ‘when?’, and unfortunately I can’t answer that — but it’s likely measured in months not days — just to set expectations,” the post reads.

The news came alongside the release of an update to Communicator for Mac, which addresses an issue related to crashing in Lion. The download is available through Microsoft AutoUpdate.

The company also reiterated that Office for Mac 2004 will not ever work on Lion, because the software was a PowerPC-based product, and Lion no longer includes Rosetta.

“Now would be a great time to upgrade to Office for Mac 2011 if you’re upgrading to Lion!” Fox said.

Office for Mac 2011, the industry’s most popular productivity suite, was released last October, delivering better compatibility with the Windows version of Office and corporate server products. It also features a revised user interface that’s similar to the “ribbon” interface used in Windows.

Those user interface elements are built on Cocoa, the development layer of Mac OS X. And the all-new version of Outlook that shipped with Office for Mac 2011 was also built from the ground-up with Cocoa for the Mac.

File versions, auto-save and full-screen are major features touted as part of the newly released Mac OS X 10.7 Lion operating system. With support for Lion, documents are automatically saved, and multiple versions of the file are stored allowing for Time Machine-like recovery of previous iterations of a file.

The new full-screen support in Lion will bring an iPad-like feel to the operating system, allowing users to concentrate on one task at a time and quickly swipe between full-screen applications with a multi-touch gesture.

Apple’s own competing productivity suite, iLife, was already updated for Lion earlier this month. iWork Update 6 adds support for full-screen mode, resume, auto-save and versions to Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple files patent for flat keyboard technology that would rely on acoustic pulses rather than physical key taps

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 02:19
Category: News, Patents

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This could be weird.

But also spiffy.

Per a patent application files with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has looked into a flat keyboard that would detect acoustic pulses from users’ taps instead of relying on physical key presses.

The patent, entitled “Piezo-based acoustic and capacitive detection,” was published last week and describes an effort solve an issue with touch-sensitive input devices.

“In general, touch-sensitive surface or related input devices may be less reliable in determining a pressed command or intended input when compared with a traditional mechanical keyboard,” the filing read. “For example, some touch screens often require that a user tap on the screen several times before detecting the command.

The Mac maker’s proposed solution is to couple a capacitive touch sensor with a piezoelectric sensor that can detect an “acoustic signature” from user input. That acoustic signature would then be compared to a database of reference acoustic signatures in order to determine where the input occurred.

One embodiment of the invention would entail multiple piezoelectric sensors to track more than one acoustic pulse. Apple also proposes that “tuning features,” such as openings on the surface of the keyboard, could help distinguish various keys by distorting or altering the acoustic signature of taps.

According to the filing, pressure switches and proximity devices could also be utilized to help ensure accurate detection.

Apple suggests that “it may be useful to provide an input device that is flat and has few to no moving pieces, as this may yield a more robust product.” The company also noted that the invention could “take any form of a input-surface input device for a computing system, not just a traditional keyboard layout.

The filing provides for several materials for the keys, such as metal, glass and plastic. In the case of metal or plastic, the keys could be “machined, stamped or micro-perforated” into the surface. For a glass solution, keys can be painted on the surface or “provided as graphics on a display screen located below the glass surface.”

Additionally, keys could be indented or have textural differences that would help users distinguish between keys. Apple suggests that the flat keyboard could include a “haptic or tactile feedback mechanism” that would provide “force, vibration and/or motion” to a user’s fingers or hands in response to pressing on the keyboard surface. The company has, in the past, expressed interest in haptic feedback for touch screens.

Apple filed for the patent on Jan. 20, 2010.

Mushtaq A. Sarwar, Omar Sze Leung, Aleksandar Pance, Brett Bilbrey and Andew Ross Richardson are credited as the inventors.

Apple looking into long-term plans for solar powered devices

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Date: Wednesday, July 27th, 2011, 08:40
Category: News

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It’s the nifty stuff that’s always down the road a bit…

Per DigiTimes, Apple has reportedly shown continued interest in building solar-powered devices, but the niche market for solar components is said to require more time to mature.

Apple and Samsung are the two companies specifically said to be “evaluating” solar power for their consumer products. Both device makers are alleged to have considered including Taiwan-based solar power component makers in their supply chains.

Citing sources in the Taiwan solar component industry, the report said that the niche market needs more time to develop and expand. Mass production of organic photovoltaic cells is said to remain an issue, and higher efficiency products are still being tested in labs and are not ready for mass production.

“The number of solar cells used is less than rooftop solar systems, hence it is unlikely for solar-powered consumer products to form a solid market in the short term,” the report said.

Samsung plans to release a solar-powered netbook, the NC215S, this August, a first for the company. The report said that the Samsung netbook utilizes a unique-sized solar cell.

A number of companies are said to be working on organic photovoltaic cells, which provide higher efficiency and are largely made with polyethylene terepthalate, or PET. America’s Solarmer and Plextronics, the U.K.’s Konarka, and Japan’s Mitsubishi Chemical are all said to be pursuing organic photovoltaic technology.

Over the years in numerous patent applications, Apple has shown interest in adopting solar power in its mobile devices. This January, one such filing described a device with an auxiliary solar cell that would serve as a secondary power source.

Another proposed invention showed an iPod with solar panels placed on both the front and back of the portable media player, giving a large surface area to collect more potential power. Apple’s concept would build solar cells of rigid materials, allowing virtually the entire exterior of the device to be covered in solar cells.

And in 2008, the company presented a concept in which it would sandwich solar panels between the LCD and circuit board of a device. In this way, a product could collect energy through its display while maintaining the aesthetics and size of the product.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.