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Google launches cloud-based music service, demos upcoming version of Android

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Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, 03:48
Category: News

Google launched the invite-only beta of its new cloud music streaming service Tuesday, along with Android movie rentals, and Honeycomb 3.1 for tablets. It also previewed Ice Cream Sandwich, the next major Android release, and promised that devices will receive future Android updates for 18 months after they launch, through a new agreement with carriers and device makers.

Per AppleInsider, the company launched its new Music service, a streaming product that will remain free while in beta. Initially, the service is only available to those who are given an invite.

The license-free cloud product allows users to upload their library of music to Google’s servers, and stream those tracks to Android devices and computers, on both Windows and Mac. The Music Beta software allows users to upload all of the music within their iTunes library and access it on the go.

The search giant unveiled the new product as part of its I/O 2011 conference on Tuesday. It boasted that the music service, when synced to the cloud, means users will never have to sync with a cable again.

Music Beta by Google also lets users “pin” their music for offline use, allowing content to be accessed when a data connection may not be available. Music Beta can be used on Android devices running Froyo or Gingerbread.

Google also unveiled movie rentals for Android devices, with thousands of movies available to rent for US$1.99 A new movies application for Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom allows users to watch movies on the go as well.

Like with music, users can “pin” their movie and download it, even if it’s rented and streaming, for playback when a data connection may not be available, such as on a plane ride.

Movies are now available on the Android market, and the official Movies application is available as part of today’s Honeycomb 3.1 release, while smartphone users with Android 2.2 will receive the application in the next few weeks.

Google also announced that an update for Honeycomb, its tablet-centric mobile operating system, is available today for Verizon customers. Those who own a Motorola Xoom will be able to update to Android 3.1.

The new update adds the ability to make Android devices act as USB hosts. In one example, they showed an Xbox 360 wired controller being used with an Android tablet via USB.

With the update, users can also stretch widgets horizontally or vertically to make them fit their needs.

Android 3.1 will also come to Google TV this summer, and bring the Android Market with applications. Google also revealed that there are now more than 200,000 applications available on the Android Market.

Google’s philosophy with the next major release of Android, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich, will be “one OS everywhere,” across a range of devices. That would mean that Android phones and tablets would be running the same operating system, unlike the current landscape where Honeycomb is restricted only to tablets.

Google said it would have an “advanced app framework” in the next release of Android, allowing developers to scale their software to different platforms. They also boasted that their mobile operating system will “all be open source.”

Ice Cream Sandwich is also said to include a new user interface, new widgets, and new applications. It said the next user interface would be “state of the art.”

In one demonstration, Google showed off 3D headtracking on a Motorola Xoom using the hardware’s forward facing camera.

Google also vowed to streamline the updating process for Android devices. Carriers and device makers have agreed to provide new updates for 18 months after devices are launched, provided the hardware can support the newer versions of Android.

The company also showed off a new standard called Android Open Accessory. Using this, external can be connected to Android handsets and be supported by third-party software.

The search giant provided a demonstration of Android Open Accessory by connecting an Android phone to a stationary bike. It also demonstrated home automation integration called Android @ Home, with Android-compatible lightbulbs from Lighting Science set to go on sale by the end of the year.

If you’ve received an invitation to Google’s new music service and had a chance to play with it, please let us know.

Drive Genius 3.1.1 update released

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Date: Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, 03:57
Category: News


Prosoft Engineering has released Drive Genius 3.1.1, an updated version of its drive repair and recovery program for Mac OS X.

The new version, a 16 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and features:

– Live defrag can now be canceled (on some machines this may require a wired keyboard).

– DrivePulse™ is now installed on a per-user basis instead of for all users.

– The Information tool now displays use-based statistics for drives in the Details tab.

– DrivePulse™will open a Finder window for mounted volumes with a click on the disk icon in the DrivePulse™menu.

– Initial support for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

– Bug Fix: Defrag and Repartition now work with native “large block” (4KB) drives.

– Bug Fix: Minor Duplicate issues with native “large block” (4KB) drives.

– Bug Fix: Stability improvements to DriveSlim™while searching for files.

– Bug Fix: Stability issue if a drive was removed from the system while a defrag was in progress.

– Bug Fix: The overview information for unmounted volumes was displaying free space as used space.

Drive Genius retails for US$99 and requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.3 or later installed to install and run.

Newer Technology announces NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Battery for 2008/2009 MacBook Pro notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 11:36
Category: Accessory, battery, MacBook Pro, News

If you’re saving up for a 2011 MacBook Pro and need to keep your older gear going for a while, you’ll appreciate that.

On Tuesday, Woodstock, Illinois-based Newer Technology announced today the NuPower 52 Watt-Hour High Capacity Replacement Battery for Late 2008/Early 2009 15″ Apple MacBook Pro ‘Unibody’ notebook computers that offers up to 4% greater capacity over the factory original battery for longer runtimes.

The unit retails for US$99.00 MSRP and reportedly offers a 23% lower cost than the replacement battery available from Apple.

The battery includes Newer’s one year warrant and is RoHS-compliant.

Microsoft purchases Skype for $8.5 billion

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 04:26
Category: News, Software


You’ve got to admit, Skype does have its uses.

And companies tend to see this.

According to Fortune, Microsoft has agreed to buy the voice-over-Internet company for US$8.5 billion, including the assumption of debt.

There had been reports last week that Skype was in acquisition or partnership talks with both Microsoft and Facebook.

Skype will become a new business unit within Microsoft, to be run by current Skype CEO Tony Bates, who will report directly to Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.

Luxembourg-based Skype began life as a VC-backed company, before being acquired by eBay (EBAY) for US$2.6 billion in 2005. The combination didn’t pan out as expected, and eBay gave public thought to either selling the unit outright or spinning it off into an independent public company. In November 2009, it agreed to sell a 65% stake in Skype for US$1.9 billion to an investor group that included Silver Lake Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Index Ventures (the 7th-largest leveraged buyout of 2009).

Skype then filed for a US$100 million IPO last August. The company reported a US$6.9 million net loss in 2010, on nearly US$860 million in revenue. It reported just US$686 million in long-term debt, and just over US$1 billion in liabilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype updated to, resolves security flaw

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 04:56
Category: News, Software


On Monday, version of Skype went public. The new version, a 20.2 megabyte download, resolves a security issue that could allow hackers to gain control of a Mac via a maliciously crafted Skype message. The vulnerability made headlines last week when a security researcher publicized the issue. In response, Skype promised that an update would come early this week.

Skype requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

Amazon quietly adds iOS support for Cloud Player music streaming service

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

Competition’s a bit weird sometimes.

Amazon has silently added support for browser-based playback of music in its new cloud streaming service on iOS-powered devices.

Per TechCrunch, Amazon quietly added support for iOS devices through its built-in Safari browser. Users can log into their account on Amazon and access the Cloud Player, which now allows streaming of audio files stored on its servers.

Users who visit the site will still be prompted with a message warning them that their browser is not supported. However, music playback now works through the service, and audio is even paused when a push notification or call is received.

“Of course, this implementation is still not as good as it is on Android, where Cloud Player is part of a native app,” author MG Siegler wrote. “But if Amazon did a little web work and made the web-based player optimized for the iPhone and iPad, it would certainly be very useable on a regular basis.”

Amazon’s cloud streaming service launched in March, but initially only had support for streaming via the Web and on Android devices. Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB of free online storage, with premium accounts expandable to up to 1,000GB.

The push to launch the service, which requires users to upload their own songs and is not backed by any recording industry licensing deals, was seen as a move to preemptively take on Apple and its own anticipated cloud music streaming service. It’s also been reported that Apple is expected to unveil its “iCloud” service this year with support for bookmarks, e-mail, contacts and more, in addition to music streaming.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve played around with Amazon’s Cloud service on your iOS device and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Google Chrome updated to 12.0.742.30

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 09:21
Category: News, Software


Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 12.0.742.30 for the Mac. The new version, a 36.2 megabyte download, offers the following the following changes:

– Finished implementing support for hardware-accelerated 3D CSS, which allows web developers to apply slick 3D effects to web page content using CSS.

– In addition to protecting you against malware and phishing websites, Chrome now warns you before downloading some types of malicious files.

– You now have more control over your online privacy. Many websites store information on your computer using forms of local data storage such as Flash Local Shared Objects (LSOs). In the past, you could only delete Flash LSOs using an online settings application on Adobe’s website, but we’ve worked closely with Adobe to allow you to delete Flash LSOs directly from Chrome’s settings.

– Improved screen reader support in Chrome. Many people who are blind or visually impaired use a screen reader, a special type of software that describes the contents of the screen using synthesized speech or braille. It’s a very important technology for people who would otherwise be unable to use a computer, so we’ve added preliminary support for many popular screen readers including JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver.

– We’ve removed the Google Gears plug-in, as promised on the Google Gears blog in March. We’re excited about the potential of HTML5 to enable powerful web applications, and we hope that Google Gears rests in peace.

The full changelog can be found here and Google Chrome 12.0.742.30 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) to support up to 450 mbps Wi-Fi speeds on newer Mac models

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:09
Category: News, Software

Although it’s unknown as to exactly when Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) will be released, its feature list is looking interesting.

Among these features is a new protocol that will unlock the latent capacity of recently released Thunderbolt MacBook Pro and iMac systems to use faster 450 Mbps 802.11n wireless networking, thanks to triple send and receive antennas capable of supporting three spacial streams of wireless traffic.

Per AppleInsider, the 802.11n WiFi standard supports faster networking speeds through a number of technologies, including the use of multiple antennas (aka “MIMO” or multiple-input multiple-output).

Devices and wireless base stations supporting 802.11n can use multiple antennas (up to four each for send and receive) to spatially multiplex multiple independent data streams within one spectral channel of bandwidth enabling faster data throughput, a major factor of why the relatively new 802.11n is faster than previous 802.11 a/b/g wireless networks.

The 802.11n standard also supports the less-utilized (but higher frequency and therefore weaker wall penetrating) 5GHz frequency band, which was previously only tapped by 802.11a devices in corporate networks; 802.11b/g standards both only use the (often heavily saturated) 2.4GHz frequency band, potentially suffering from interference with neighboring wireless networks or Bluetooth devices.

New 802.11n networks can also speed up data transfers by using wide, 40MHz bandwidth channels to double the amount of radio spectrum used. Apple’s Airport base stations only support wide channels when configured to work as “802.11n only (5GHz)” networks. The option is hidden behind the “Wireless Network Options” button.

MCS is reported by Mac OS X clients in the AirPort menu when holding down the Option key. This index number can scale down depending on signal strength and interference, but its top limit is bound by the features of the hardware on the client and the network’s base station.

For example, iPhone 4 is 802.11n but lacks support for 5GHz and wide channels, limiting it to 802.11n networks configured to use 2.4GHz. The iPad, in contrast, can see and connect to “802.11n only (5GHz)” wireless networks. However, the iPad can still only support one spatial stream using a 20MHz channel because, like the iPhone, it lacks multiple “MIMO” antennas (due to battery life, cost and complexity constraints, as each antenna also requires radio support as well).

This limits Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad to an MCS index of 7, with a top throughput rate of 65 Mbps. Earlier 802.11b/g devices (including older iPhones) can only support a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. The iPad, unlike iPhone 4, can also make use of 5GHz networks, which may enable for less interference from neighboring wireless traffic but does not raise its MCS index.

All Macs supporting 802.11n have multiple antennas and can therefore support two spacial streams, allowing them to achieve an MCS of 15 and a top data rate of 130 Mbps on 2.4GHz networks. Unlike iOS devices, Macs can also handle wide 40MHz channels in the 5GHz band, enabling a doubled data throughput of 300 Mbps when connecting to a “802.11n only (5GHz)” network configured to support wide channels.

This year, Apple began incorporating three send and receive antennas in its Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and iMacs, enabling them to achieve an MCS of 23 and a top data rate of 450 Mbps on 5GHz networks with wide channels. This new capability goes beyond the baseline certification of 802.11n as defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which maxes out at 300 Mbps

While not currently supported by Mac OS X Snow Leopard, a developer has reported that the developer preview of Lion does indicate support for the new hardware when used with modern base stations such as Airport Extreme or Time Capsule.

The developer tested a MacBook Pro using a 2.3GHz Core i5, and reported an MCS of 23 with a transmit rate of 450 using a 5GHz network hosted by Airport Extreme. Previous machines are only able to achieve MCS 15.

If you’ve gotten your hands on an early build of Mac OS X 10.7, let us know how it went and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

iPhone dev team releases untethered jailbreak for iOS 4.3.3

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:33
Category: iPhone, News, Software

For those of you who don’t mind living on the edge, you can now do it a bit more sensibly with your iPhone.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, jailbreakers hesitant to update to iOS 4.3.3 can now do so without losing their ability to jailbreak. The iPhone dev team confirmed iOS 4.3.3 is still vulnerable to the untethered jailbreak exploit that @i0n1c created for 4.3.1. Released earlier this week, this version of iOS fixes the location bug that made headlines a few weeks ago.

Both the group’s PwnageTool and redsn0w have been updated and will jailbreak iOS 4.3.3 devices including the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4G, iPad1 and AppleTV 2G (v4.3;8F202). Unfortunately, the iPad 2 is not yet supported and its jailbreak is still under development.

Head over to the dev team’s blog for more information about this untethered jailbreak. As with all jailbreak attempts, follow the directions carefully and proceed at your own risk…

Other World Computing offers 480GB solid state drive option for MacBook Air

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 06:38
Category: hard drive, MacBook Air, News

It’s not cheap but it’s nifty and useful.

Per Macworld, Other World Computing has announced the Mercury Aura Pro Express 480GB, which the company says is the largest high performance solid state drive available for the 2010 MacBook Air. The full Mercury Aura Pro Express line offers solid state upgrades for both the 11.6″ and 13.3″ Airs, in 180GB, 240GB, 360GB, and 480GB sizes.

OWC, which says it is the only company making third-party drives for the 2010 MacBook Air, claims that its drives perform up to 68% faster than Apple’s stock Air drives in real-world use, with peak data rates of 275MB per second. The company also says that unlike other solid state drives, the Mercury Aura Pro Express drives won’t suffer from transfer speed reduction with heavy use.

The large, speedy drive will put a strain on your wallet. The smallest entry in line, the 180GB drive, retails for US$480 while the 480GB unit retails for US$1580.

The drives offer chip-based data encryption, and use SandForce RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology to provide RAID-like protection without a performance hit.