VMWare releases Fusion 4.1.2 update

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Date: Monday, April 16th, 2012, 09:53
Category: News, Software

On Friday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 4.1.2 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 180 megabyte download, can be found here and offers the following fix:

– Resolved an issue that caused the following message when you resumed a suspended virtual machine: The Virtual Machine is unable to reserve memory.

– The McAfee Virus Scan software is updated.

– Resolved an intermittent problem that caused printing to fail on Mac OS X Lion.

– Resolved an issue that occurred when copying and pasting information from newer Linux distributions.

– Improved compatibility with certain versions of Mac OS X.

– Improved the behavior of the minibar when placed at the top of the display.

– Fixed mapping of comma on numeric keyboard mapping of a French keyboard.

– Resolved an intermittent problem when removing a CD device from a virtual machine.

Fusion 4.1.2 retails for US$49.99 and requires an Intel-based Mac, 2 GB of RAM, Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later (10.7 recommended) and a copy of Windows (if you’ll be installing Windows).

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

Symantec releases Norton Flashback Detection and Removal Tool

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 08:26
Category: News, Software

In the midst of all this Flashback hubbub, Symantec on Thursday released a free scan-and-removal tool to help remove the now-infamous Flashback malware. The utility is available on http://us.norton.com/mac-flashback/promo as a 649 kilobyte download and requires a quick agreement to the software terms prior to download.

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

Apple updates iTunes account security protocols, adds new security prompts for users

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 07:41
Category: News, security, Software

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This could make your iTunes account that much more secure.

Or it could make you want to put an axe through the screen as you just want to buy a cool 99 cent app.

Per Ars Technica, Apple has begun asking users to select and answer a series of questions associated with their Apple IDs to enhance security measures.

The security prompts began popping up on iOS devices on Wednesday, wherein users were met with a prompt that states “Security Info Required.”

After being shown the message, users are asked to select from a number of security questions and provide personal answers. Users are also prompted to provide a backup e-mail address in case the primary address associated with their Apple ID is compromised.

The changes are meant to curb fraud and phishing attempts that have been used for many years to hijack iTunes accounts. Because credit card information is tied to a user’s account, nefarious people will steal and resell accounts, allowing people to buy content like music, movies and applications on someone else’s dime.

This week’s changes are only the latest in a series of measures by Apple over the years to improve security associated with iTunes accounts. Some of the steps taken include requiring users to verify their account information when they log into new devices, and upgrading passwords to make them more complex with varying characters.

Some users have been confused by the new security prompts appearing this week, and have expressed concern on the Apple Support Communities website that the alerts could be bogus phishing attempts. However, the revised measures have been proven to be legitimate, and Apple has admitted they are part of an ongoing effort to bolster security.

If you’ve seen these prompts on your end, please let us know what you make of them in the comments.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.0 (Service Pack 2) released

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 06:11
Category: News, Software

Even your crankiest relatives at Thanksgiving can’t deny that an update is a good thing.

On Tuesday, Microsoft released its Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.0 (Service Pack 2) update. The update, a 112 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

– Document Connection support for SkyDrive documents is improved. This update enables users to view and access documents that are located in the root level of a SkyDrive folder.

– The drag-and-drop feature in Document Connection is added in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). This update adds a drag-and-drop feature for files in Document Connection in Mac OS X 10.7.

– Upload functionality for SharePoint sites is improved. This update fixes an issue in which you receive the following error message when you upload a file to a SharePoint site: Upload Failed You must sign in to save your changes to the server.

– The Italian grammar checker is improved. This update fixes an issue in which the Italian grammar checker does not check a complete document.

– The German grammar checker is improved. This update fixes an issue in which the German grammar checker does not check a complete document when the document contains certain German sentences.

Improvements for Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011
– The database and the rebuild utility are improved. This update includes fixes that increase the robustness of the database and that improve the effectiveness of the rebuild utility. Outlook for Mac uses the Office database to store personal information, such as messages and contacts.

– This update fixes issues that cause database corruptions, instability, and crashes. This update also improves database transactions and the ability to recover from certain errors. If there is a problem within the database, Outlook for Mac starts the Database Utility, which tries to rebuild the database. After you install this update, the Database Utility recovers additional account information, such as shared resources and categories, and recovers from corruption scenarios. This update also adds the ability to cancel a database rebuild in Outlook for Mac.

– IMAP account sync that includes support for synchronizing with Gmail is improved. After you install this update, Outlook for Mac updates new messages in IMAP folders regularly. Additionally, Outlook for Mac users who use Gmail accounts can map folders, such as Drafts, Deleted Items, Sent Items, and Junk E-Mail, automatically.

– Outlook for Mac performance in key scenarios is improved. This update introduces several performance improvements in the following areas:
General responsiveness during syncing
Deleting multiple records
Displaying email message content
Sending email messages

– Exchange email message sync is improved. This update introduces a new sync model for Exchange. The new model enables Outlook for Mac to download an email message in parts. For example, Outlook for Mac first downloads and displays message text and then downloads large images and attachments.

– Downloading messages in parts reduces the load on the Exchange server and improves performance for the user.

– Support for calendar scheduling resources is improved. This update improves support for calendar scheduling resources and for free/busy comparison functionality in the Scheduling Assistant.

– Week numbers are added to the calendar display. This update adds a preference to enable the calendar to display week numbers.

– Distribution list expansion functionality is included. This update enables you to expand distribution lists into individual members when you add a distribution list in the To field or rest the mouse pointer on a distribution list.

Improvements for Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac 2011:
– Functionality for pasting special hyperlinks is included. This update introduces functionality that enables you to paste special hyperlinks in PowerPoint.

– The list of co-authors is improved. This update fixes an issue in which you cannot see the list of co-authors in a presentation.

– Full Screen View in Lion is supported. This update supports Full Screen View in PowerPoint. Additionally, when you close slide show mode in PowerPoint, edit mode opens.

Improvements for Microsoft Word for Mac 2011:
– Printing PDF faxes is improved. This update fixes an issue in which Word cannot send .pdf files as faxes.

– The user information display in templates is improved. This update fixes an issue in which a Word template does not display a user’s name, address, telephone number, fax number, and email address when you view the template after the template is saved in .doc format.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.0 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and for the Service Pack 1 updater to have been previously installed.

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

Apple releases Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8, Java for Mac OS X Lion 2012-003 updates, looks to remove Flashback malware

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 06:25
Category: News, Software

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Maybe this will settle it once and for all.

Late Thursday, Apple released Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 8, the update removing the most common variants of the Flashback malware. The 80.6 megabyte download requires Mac OS X 10.6.8 to install and run.

The company also released Java for Mac OS X Lion 2012-003, which also looks to remove the most common type of the now-infamous Flashback malware. The 63.8 megabyte download requires OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

The updates, which can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature. If you’ve tried the new versions and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Skype updated to 5.7.60.1037

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 08:45
Category: News, Software

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On Tuesday, version 5.7.60.1037 of the Skype VoIP application was released. The new version, a 23.5 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

– We have made overall improvements to the product quality and calling experience.

– Following user feedback, we have enabled Volume Control in the Preferences for users who use USB headsets.

– Fixed: IM area becomes blurry after scrolling

Skype 5.7.60.1037 is available for free and 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.

Rumor: Intel to announce Ivy Bridge architecture on April 23rd

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:18
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s gotta be some truth to this somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, Intel has moved up the announcement of its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors from the original date of April 29 to April 23 as PC makers ready the second generation of ultrabooks, expected to arrive in May.

The publication claimed on Thursday that sources from notebook players had revealed Intel’s change in plans. The launch comes as Asustek, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard are expected to release Ivy Bridge-powered ultrabooks next month.

Multiple sources have pointed to late April for the Ivy Bridge launch. One report claimed late last month that Intel would announce the new processors between April 22 and April 28 and begin selling them on April 29.

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pros will likely be the first Macs to feature the new Intel chips. Sources out of the Far East said last month that the updated laptops could arrive by the end of April.

Following the release of its new notebooks, the Cupertino, Calif., company is expected to release updated Ivy Bridge iMacs as early as June or July.

Other hints that Intel is nearly ready to release its Ivy Bridge architecture also came on Thursday when reports surfaced that Intel is shipping its second-generation Thunderbolt controllers for use with Ivy Bridge chips.

Thursday’s report also quoted Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen as saying that ultrabook prices will fall from US$999 to US$699 in the new few months as volume shipments drive costs down. PC makers have been hard at work at reducing the average price of ultrabook laptops in order to better compete against Apple’s MacBook Air.

Intel declared earlier this month that ultrabooks trump the MacBook Air in functionality and value.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-generation Apple TV A5 processor studied, second core found

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 07:50
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News, Processors

This is sort of interesting.

An investigation into the custom A5 chip used in Apple TV has found that the new Application Processor uses both a smaller, more efficient 32nm die process and actually incorporates two cores, one of which is simply turned off.

Per Chipworks, the custom A5 “APL2498” used in the third generation, 1080p Apple TV has improved upon the 45nm LP CMOS process of the previous A5 “APL0498,” used in both iPad 2 and iPhone 4S last year.

The smaller die size makes the Apple TV’s A5 almost 41 percent smaller than the original part, allowing more chips to be created from a single silicon wafer. That makes producing the part cheaper, and also helps improve performance and lower power consumption (as its components are shrunken down and therefore closer to each other).

In addition to being smaller, Chipworks found that the new version of the A5 actually incorporates two cores. Apple only advertises Apple TV as having a single core chip, so the investigation notes that “either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts.”

By turning off one core, Apple could reduce the power consumption of a device. However, Apple TV lacks the power constraints of battery-powered mobile devices, making it more likely that the company simply developed a smaller, cheaper version of the A5 and is using the dual core rejects to power Apple TV, where one core is sufficient.

Chipworks explains that such “parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements, in this case they could disable the ‘bad’ core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.”

Chip makers routinely create CPUs and RAM components and test them for the highest speed they can consistently operate at, selling the fastest parts for more and the slower components for less, rated to work at a slower clock speed.

This strategy would allow Apple to use its poorest performing new A5 chips in the US$99 Apple TV, while creating a new supply of fully functional 32nm A5 chips that are faster, smaller and cheaper than last year’s 45nm batch.

Chipworks notes that these chips could either power a new generation of iPhones (or other devices) or help to reduce the cost of existing products such as the iPhone 4S or iPad 2. The latest third generation iPad uses a custom chip Apple calls A5X, which incorporates the same dual ARM cores but delivers quad-core GPUs to drive its Retina Display, with four times the pixels.

Adobe releases Flash Player 11.3.300.214 beta update

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Date: Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 06:48
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Adobe released Flash Player 11.3.300.214 for Mac OS X, a 10.9 megabyte download via MacUpdate. The new beta version includes the following fixes and changes:

– Texture streaming.

– Background Updater for Mac.

– Driver gating hardware acceleration relaxed to 2006.

– MouseEvent.RELEASE_OUTSIDE.

– ApplicationDomain.getQualifiedDefinitionNames().

– Improved Mac App Store Support.

– Simulator Support for iOS.

– Aspect Ratio Enhancements.

– ADT support to package 144×144 size icons has been added in AIR 3.3.

– Capabilities.screenDPI now returns appropriate DPI value for high resolution iPads.

Flash Player 11.3.300.214 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, please feel free to hurl your two cents in via the comments.

Early Ivy Bridge benchmark tests surface, show appreciable improvements in graphics, overall performance

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Date: Wednesday, April 11th, 2012, 11:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

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It’s the benchmarks that make an upcoming technology that much more interesting.

Per CPU World, a series of benchmark tests demonstrates how the much-anticipated Ivy Bridge architecture in the upcoming MacBook Pro notebooks could show fairly significant improvements in performance, particularly in graphics.

The chip being tested was the Core i7-3820QM, a 2.7 GHz processor with turbo speeds up to 3.7 GHz paired with Intel HD 4000 graphics. The chip is scheduled to debut with a price of US$568 in high volume, and seems to be the natural successor to the Sandy Bridge Core i7-2860QM that is the current high-end processor for the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro, available as a build-to-order option.

For benchmarking comparisons, the new Ivy Bridge Core i7-3820QM chip was pitted against a Sandy Bridge Core i7-2960XM, which is an even higher-performance “Extreme” chip than is available in the current MacBook Pro. Consequently, any performance increase between the current high-end MacBook Pro chip and this new Ivy Bridge chip would be even greater than outlined in the benchmarking comparison.

Overall, the 3820QM was found to score an average of 9% higher than the Extreme 2960XM chip, a modest improvement but one which should be significantly higher relative to the 2860QM chip from the current MacBook Pro. Taking into account a roughly 10% higher performance for the tested 2960XM Sandy Bridge processor compared to the 2860QM actually found in the current MacBook Pro, the new 3820QM Ivy Bridge processor should offer roughly 20% higher CPU performance than is currently available in the MacBook Pro.

Looking at the CPU performance, using a few tests, the reduced production process helps the performance for a number of standard tests. In 3DMark Vantage (Entry level preset), Ivy Bridge has a 10% performance improvement over Sandy Bridge for the CPU score, and 9% in the physics score. In Cinebench 11.5, the single thread test showed a performance boost of 4%, and the multi-threaded test gave an improvement of 10%. The performance boost in the Truecrypt 7.0a – AES test was 4%. Finally, using x264 HD Benchmark 4.0, test 1 showed a boost of 13%, and test 2 showed a boost of 11%.

Even more significant gains for the Ivy Bridge chip show up in graphics performance, where the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics supplants the HD 3000 graphics found in the Sandy Bridge chips. According to the benchmarks, the new HD 4000 integrated graphics outperforms the current graphics by anywhere from 32% to 108% depending on the test.

Apple, of course also includes a dedicated graphics chip in its larger MacBook Pro models, giving users the option of higher performance with the dedicated chip or increased battery life with the integrated graphics. And given that the HD 4000 integrated graphics does not yet approach the performance of dedicated chips, those looking for maximum performance will still want to take advantage of whichever dedicated graphics option Apple includes in updated MacBook Pro models.

But significant improvements to integrated graphics performance could show up as a benefit in a number of areas, including providing users with better performance even when opting for the battery-conserving graphics settings. Apple has also reportedly been considering using integrated graphics only in some of its mid-range MacBook Pro models, with the HD 4000 chip making it feasible for the company to drop the dedicated graphics chip on some of those models while still being able to offer acceptable graphics performance.

Finally, the HD 4000 graphics will offer a marked improvement for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is expected to debut in June when Intel rolls out its dual-core Ivy Bridge processors. The smaller 13-inch form factor requires that those models rely solely on integrated graphics, meaning that all users would see a significant boost from the current HD 3000 graphics to the new HD 4000 graphics.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.