Apple purchases Color Labs’ talent base for indeterminate price

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Date: Friday, October 19th, 2012, 08:05
Category: Finance, News, Software

Your favorite computer company bought up the talent, not the office supplies (including the trusty coffee maker)

Per All Things D, Apple didn’t buy social video startup Color, but it did acquire its engineering team of about 20 employees for as much as $5 million.

Disputing a rumor that surfaced on Wednesday claiming that Apple had bought Color, Liz Gannes of All Things D revealed on Thursday that Apple instead “acquired” Color’s engineering team. The employees were said to have been picked up for somewhere between US$2 million and US$5 million.

That would mean that earlier claims that Apple had bought Color for “double-digit millions” were incorrect. Instead, Apple made a relatively small talent acquisition of about 20 personnel.

“Apple is not buying Color’s technology, intellectual property, domain names or liabilities,” Gannes said. “Those are being left with the company, which still has considerable cash in the bank — something like US$25 million — and is going to be wound down.”

A flurry of rumors and misinformation related to Color were attributed to “bad blood” that has apparently formed between Color employees, company CEO Bill Nguyen, ex-employees, investors, and even Apple itself.

Founded by Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham in 2011, Color Labs was at the center of some controversy after netting US$41 million in a pre-launch funding round, a massive investment compared to the usual US$1 million in seed money seen by most comparable start-ups. The company released a photo-sharing app, though the initiative failed to draw users, prompting Pham to exit three months after launch and Chief Product Officer DJ Patil to do the same one month later.

Nguyen changed strategies and created a new video-sharing app that allows users to record and post 30-second silent video to Facebook, a direction that netted Color a deal with Verizon in May.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst predicts Apple to phase out iPad 2 to make room for “iPad mini”

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Date: Friday, October 19th, 2012, 07:13
Category: Finance, iPad, News

The iPad 2 could be going the way of the dodo.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Rob Cihra with Evercore Partners said in a note to investors this week that he sees Apple phasing out the current iPad 2, because Apple’s overall vision calls for “clearer product tiers.” The prediction comes as Apple is expected to lower the barrier to entry of its iPad lineup by unveiling a new, smaller iPad next Tuesday.

Cihra believes Apple will sell around 7 million so-called “iPad mini” units in the December quarter. Along with the full-size iPad, he sees Apple selling a total of 26 million units in the holiday shopping season.

In his view, Apple is leveraging its engineering expertise in both hardware and software to “pull dollars away from otherwise commodity markets and incumbent competitors.” Apple’s calendar year 2012 revenues are up 30 percent year over year, while the broader PC market has dropped 4 percent this year.

Further bolstered by sales of 49 million iPhones, Apple is expected by Cihra to post US$56.1 billion in revenue during the December quarter, amounting to US$16.33 in earnings per share.

Prior to that anticipated blockbuster quarter, Apple will report results for its just-concluded September quarter. For that three-month frame, Cihra believes Apple sold 27 million iPhones, 17 million iPads, 4.9 million Macs and 5.7 million iPods, resulting in revenue of US$36.5 billion and earnings per share of US$9.03.

His numbers are slightly above Wall Street consensus for the September quarter, as other analysts on average seek US$36.4 billion in revenue and US$8.93 earnings per share.

Evercore Partners has reiterated its overweight rating for AAPL stock, as well as a target price of US$800.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VirtualBox updated to 4.2.2

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Date: Friday, October 19th, 2012, 07:02
Category: News, Software

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VirtualBox, an open source x86 virtualization project available for free has just hit version 4.2.2. The new version, a 102.3 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:
– VMM: adapted to changes in Mac OS X 10.8.2 (bug #10965).

– GUI: restored VM item tool-tip functionality (4.2 regression).

– GUI: added group item tool-tip functionality.

– GUI: fixed handling of the .ova/.ovf file name association (4.2 regression).

– GUI: it was not possible to change any setting before the first VM was created (bug #10928).

– GUI: disable grouping action if all the selected items are full children list of the same group already.

– GUI: added menu for runtime drag-and-drop option change.

– GUI: cleanup shared-clipboard menu on visual-mode change.

– GUI: make sure VM receives keyboard focus on entering fullscreen-mode on Win host (bug #11051).

– GUI: disable proxy authentication for security reasons.

– 3D Support: DrawIndexedPrimitiveUP implementation fixes for the Windows WDDM video driver (bug #10929).

– Storage: fixed a release assertion in the AHCI emulation when requests where canceled with asynchronous I/O disabled.

– Storage: fixed a hang during VM reset under certain circumstances (bug #10898).

– NAT: fixed a crash under rare circumstances (Windows hosts only; bug #10128).

– NAT: automatically use the host resolver if the host name server is set to some unusual loopback value (bug #10864).

– E1000: fixed a VirtualBox crash during intensive network transfers (4.2 regression; bugs #10936, #10969, #10980).

– ICH9: fixed PCI bridge initialization.

– USB mouse: ensure that the last mouse event doesn’t get lost if no URBs are available.

– BIOS: certain legacy guests (e.g. Windows 95) didn’t find the boot device after a warm reboot.

– BIOS: don’t trash the palette in text modes when setting the border color.

– EFI: fixed OS X guest autoboot (4.2 regression).

– VBoxManage: fixed output of showvminfo –machinereadable (bug #10973).

– VBoxManage: fixed parsing of storageattach –discard (bug #11023).

– VBoxManage: fixed wrong output of the HPET setting in showvminfo (bug #11065).

– VBoxManage: fixed closing the guest session after executing a guest process via guest control.

– VBoxShell: adaptions to interface name changes.

– Guest Additions device: fixed a Guest Additions hang when a machine was reset after a crash.

– Linux hosts / guests: Linux 3.7-rc1 fixes.

– Linux Additions: support X.Org Server 1.13.

– Linux Additions: fixed a hang when the X server was restarted with old guest kernels.

– Linux Additions: fixed a VBoxService crash during CPU hot remove (bug fixed in … (new)”>#10964).

– Windows Additions: fixed automatic screen resize issue for NT4 guests.

– OS/2 Additions: fixed shutdown hang.

– OS/2 Additions: fixed mouse driver panic.

– Solaris hosts: fixed autostart service going into maintenance mode after all VMs started.

– Solaris hosts: fixed linking the host driver with the dtrace module.

VirtualBox 4.2.2 is available for free and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 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.

Apple looking to replace IR sensors with sonar technology in next-gen devices

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Date: Thursday, October 18th, 2012, 07:52
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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Look at it this way: sonar’s been around for a while.

And it’s always been nifty.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday describes a system that may one day replace the infrared proximity sensors deployed in current iPhones with sonar-like technology.

Apple’s invention for “Passive proximity detection” negates the need for the current IR sensor, replacing it with a system that can detect and process sound waves to determine how far away an object is from a portable device.

Much like passive echolocation or a loose interpretation of passive sonar, the filing describes a system that takes two sound wave samples, a “before” and an “after,” and compares the two to determine if an external object’s proximity to the device changed. “Sampling” occurs when a transducer, such as a microphone, picks up ambient sound and sends a corresponding signal to the device’s processor for analysis.

The invention relies on basic acoustic principles as applied to modern electronics. For example, a microphone’s signal equalization curve from an audio source changes when the device moves towards or away from an object, which “variably reflect[s] elements of the sound wave.”

This effect may be noticed when sound is reflected by soft material as opposed to a hard surface. Generally, sound reflected off the soft surface will seem muted when compared to the same sound reflected off a hard surface located at the same distance and angle from an audio transducer and a sound source.

In one of the invention’s embodiments, two microphones are situated at different planes on a device, and detect the subtle changes in broad-audio-spectrum caused by interference when a sound wave interacts with an object.

To relate this to a common phenomenon, when a sea shell is held up to one’s ear a resonant cavity is formed that amplifies ambient sounds. This hi-Q filtering results in the ocean like sounds one hears.

In another example, response signals produced by two microphones located at either end of a device can be compared to determine if an object is nearer to one or the other. For example, when a user’s face is close to the top of a device, as is usual when talking on the phone, the microphone located near the ear will produce a different reactance ratio than the microphone located at the device’s base.

Basically, the signals from two transducers, or microphones, detect slight changes in ambient sound and sends corresponding signals to a processor which then compares the two to determine whether an object is in close proximity to either of the mics.

Monitoring of the microphones can be live or set to take samples at predetermined intervals, such as after a user begins to speak. Placement of the microphones can also be tweaked, and in some cases can be located next to each other.

Finally, a more active detection method is proposed, where an internal speaker generates noise, taking the place of ambient sound waves.

As portable electronic devices become increasingly smaller, the need to develop space-saving components, or to combine parts to serve a number of uses, becomes more pressing. Such is the case with Apple’s latest iPhone 5, a device that packs 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communications, a battery that can last for days, a 4-inch Retina display, two cameras, and a litany of other features into a chassis only 7.6 mm deep.

Space is already at a premium with the iPhone, as evidenced by the new Lightning connector, which Apple’s Worldwide Marketing chief Phil Schiller said was needed to create such a thin device. Moving forward, the company is rumored to incorporate near field communications (NFC) for e-wallet payments, which will take up even more precious room.

It remains to be seen if Apple will one day employ the passive proximity detection technology in a consumer device, however the iPhone is a platform ripe for deployment as it already boasts three mics for noise canceling and call quality purposes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Assorted Verizon customers report time-shifting issue with iPhone 5

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Date: Thursday, October 18th, 2012, 07:15
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Well…this is why they invented firmware updates.

Per AppleInsider, a number of iPhone 5 owners, especially those on U.S. network Verizon, are complaining of an issue where the incorrect day and time is displayed, sometimes jumping weeks ahead or behind the actual date.

According to multiple posts on Apple’s Support Communities forum, a number of iPhone 5 users are experiencing what appears to be a problem with the handset’s automatic date and time setting feature.

It is suspected that the issue may lie in the handset’s compatibility with Verizon’s network, as most of the reports on the 21-page thread come from that carrier’s subscribership.

The bug was initially reported on Sept. 24, the iPhone 5’s first day of availability, and subsequent posts citing similar timing-related difficulties have been streaming in ever since. There have been no reports of time-shifting with other iPhone models, including those upgraded to iOS 6.

While the exact cause of problem is unknown, speculation points to a bug with how the timing code embedded in Verizon’s CDMA cell network is handled.

In order to operate properly, all CDMA cell towers transmit a time signal based on data from an on-site GPS receiver, allowing the network to stay in synchronization. It is possible that either Apple’s handset is somehow misinterpreting the time signals, or timing data from certain Verizon cell towers is faulty, though at this point the theories are mere conjecture.

Forum members say both Apple and Verizon are aware of the iPhone 5’s time-shifting issue, however no clear remedies were offered to the few who contacted the companies’ customer support staff. Some have found limited success in performing a factory reset, but the method is not a sure-fire solution.

It appears that each party is placing blame on the other, further confusing the situation. Apple forum member “dtenberge” claims to have been contacted by a “Senior iOS Advisor” who said, “I just got a response from our Engineers, at this time we cannot see anything wrong on our end, they did suggest that you contact Verizon and open up a ‘ticket’ and have them look into it.”

Another member, Janine Costanzo, said, “We just called Verizon, and they said they’ve had some reports of this problem, but it’s nothing on their end. They checked the cell towers in our area (SF Bay Area) and the time is right on them. They said it’s likely a software issue on Apple’s end, so we should call Apple and tell them the problem and hope that they release a software fix for it.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know in the comments.

VLC updated to 2.0.4

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Date: Thursday, October 18th, 2012, 06:47
Category: News, Software

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Video Lan Client, the nigh-indispensable open source media player for multiple audio and video formats (MPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Divx, ogg, etc.), was updated to version 2.0.4. The new version, a 43.3 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
– Rework of the Mac OS X interface.

– Fix video output on old Macs, notably PowerPC and GMA950 intel Macs.

– Support for HiDPI, aka Retina Display.

– Translations updates and new Scottish Gaelic translation.

– Fixes for splitted RAR, MKV segmented, mp4 and Real media files playback.

– Rewrite of the Digital TV module on Windows.

– Enhancements in HLS, Blu-Ray and various codecs support.

– Fixes for subtitles auto-detection.

– Fixes on Qt, skins2 and web interfaces.

VLC 2.0.4 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

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

Apple announces “a little more” press event for October 23rd, hints at iPad mini, other new products

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Date: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012, 07:55
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, News

It always helps when Apple schedules an actual media event around its new products.

Per The Loop, Apple on Tuesday sent out invitations for a media event that will be held in one week, where the company is expected to launch a handful of new products, headlined by a smaller iPad with a 7.85-inch display.

Apple will hold the event at the California Theatre in San Jose, Calif., at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. The venue is a change from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where Apple announced the iPhone 5 along with its updated iPod lineup last month.

The invitations sent out members of the press feature the top of Apple’s iconic logo against a background of colors. The tagline is “We’ve got a little more to show you,” hinting at the company’s so-called “iPad mini.”

Earlier Tuesday, AppleInsider was first to report that 24 new, different iPad configurations are set to be released by Apple. Four models — described as P101, P103, P105 and P107 — were detailed via stock-keeping units ranked as “good,” “better” and “best,” each with two color options, presumably black and white.

Inventory of the entry-level “P101” model is expected to be greatest at launch, suggesting Apple plans to focus on a low barrier to entry for its new, smaller iPad. One retail inventory list that surfaced last weekend suggested an 8-gigabyte model could cost around US$249.

The iPad mini is expected to feature a smaller bezel than the full-size iPad, and could run a screen resolution of 1,024-by-768 pixels that would allow it to run native iPad 2 applications without any modifications. It is also expected to have forward and rear facing cameras, as well as the new smaller Lightning connector found on the iPhone 5 and latest iPods.

But the smaller iPad isn’t going to be the only device showcased by Apple next week, rumors have suggested. The company is also said to be planning to unveil a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display onstage at next week’s event.

Whether or not it receives stage time, a new iMac could also be in the cards for next week. Rumors have circulated in the reseller community that the updated desktop could debut one day after the iPad mini event, on Oct. 24.

And the diminutive Mac mini, Apple’s small desktop computer and least expensive Mac, is also overdue for an update to Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors. Supply of the Mac mini has been constrained at third-party resellers since earlier this month, which is often one of the first signs that a product refresh is forthcoming.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available as well as up to the minute coverage of the event next week.

Apple releases Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 11

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Date: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012, 07:12
Category: News, Software

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Never knock a good Java update.

On Tuesday, Apple released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 11, a Java update for its Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) operating system.

The update, an 81.9 megabyte download, uninstalls the Apple-provided Java applet plug-in from all web browsers. To use applets on a web page, click on the region labeled “Missing plug-in” to go download the latest version of the Java applet plug-in from Oracle.

As always, the update can also be located and installed via the built-in “Software Update” feature in Mac OS X.

The Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 11 fix requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later to install.

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

Apple releases Java 2012-006 update for Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8 operating systems

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Date: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012, 07:20
Category: News, Software

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Ya can’t knock a useful Java update.

On Tuesday, Apple released its Java 2012-006 update for its Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) operating systems. The update, a 67 megabyte download, uninstalls the Apple-provided Java applet plug-in from all web browsers. To use applets on a web page, click on the region labeled “Missing plug-in” to go download the latest version of the Java applet plug-in from Oracle.

As always, the update can also be located and installed via the built-in “Software Update” feature in Mac OS X.

The Java 2012-006 update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install.

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

Apple granted patent for unauthorized iPhone usage, detection and reporting technology

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Date: Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, 08:24
Category: News, Patents

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This could be useful.

Among a series of patents granted to Apple on Tuesday, an interesting invention regarding iPhone security was discovered, with the property describing various methods to protect sensitive data if an unauthorized user gets hold of the device.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Patent No. 8,289,130 for “Systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device” offers a unique security solution to the ever-present problem of having one’s iPhone lost or stolen.

The patent’s begins by stating that “This is generally directed to identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device,” but goes far beyond any identification technology currently available in Apple’s handset. For example, one embodiment of the invention calls for heartbeat monitoring, which can be used to determine whether the person holding an iPhone is its owner.

From the patent abstract:
In some embodiments, an unauthorized user of the electronic device can be detected by identifying particular activities that may indicate suspicious behavior. In some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected by comparing the identity of the current user to the identity of the owner of the electronic device. When an unauthorized user is detected, various safety measures can be taken.

The patent essentially covers three main operations: the detection of an unauthorized user; the gathering of information of an unauthorized user; and the transmission of an alert notification to the electronic device’s owner containing said information.

As mentioned above, a person’s heartbeat can be used to determined whether he or she is the owner of a device, though more conventional methods are also described, such as taking a photograph or matching voice recordings. Perhaps most effective are the patent’s other embodiments in which an unauthorized user is identified through a number of actions. For example, “entering an incorrect password a predetermined number of times in a row, hacking of the electronic device, jailbreaking of the electronic device, unlocking of the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, or moving a predetermined distance away from a synced device” can all be used as means of detection.

When a non-owner is identified, the device can enter an information gathering mode in which location, photographs, voice recordings, screenshots, keylogs, and internet usage are stored. Another option is to restrict the phone’s functions and erase sensitive information when an unauthorized user takes control of the device.

Finally, an alert is sent to a “responsible party,” such as the device owner or police, containing a predetermined message like “Warning, your electronic device may have been stolen.” In addition, the alert, sent via text, email, instant message, or over the internet, can contain the information the device gathered when in the hands of the unauthorized user.

In some embodiments, near field communications, or NFC, can be employed to pair the handset with a key fob or similar device. If the phone moves far enough away from the key fob, it will issue a warning which will turn into a formal alert if the device moves a substantial distance.

As with most Apple patents, it is unclear if the technology will be deployed in an upcoming product, however recent additions to iOS like Find My iPhone illustrate the company’s focus on device security.

Cool stuff and it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it.