iPhone OS 3.2 SDK Icons Hint at Upcoming Video Chat Feature for iPhone/iPod Touch

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Date: Monday, February 22nd, 2010, 05:31
Category: iPhone, News

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You’ve got to love the framework files in the software development kits, as they sometimes indicate more than Apple would like them to.

Per 9 to 5 Mac, a discovery in the iPhone OS 3.2 developer kit suggests Apple is opening the door to video calls on its device. Icons in the Telephony UI framework would cover accepting or declining a video chat invitation and code references alternately make references to “iChat” and “VideoChat.” No apps are currently included that would support the feature.

The code could be a possible carryover from conventional Mac OS X, which includes built-in video functionality for iChat. Still, these references have never been seen before for the iPhone OS SDK and firmware mentions have periodically been signs of iPhone and iPod touch features.

Which devices would get the feature aren’t clear. Alleged spare frame parts for the iPad show room for a camera in the initial design, but front video cameras have been a staple of some higher-end smartphones for years and would be borne out by hints of a taller iPhone that might make room for the added optics. Networking is also an issue as 3G has only limited bandwidth for two-way video.

If you have an opinion on this, please share it with the class.

Suburban Philadelphia School District Denies Accusation of Spying on Students with MacBook Cameras

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Date: Friday, February 19th, 2010, 05:18
Category: Legal, MacBook, News

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A suburban Philadelphia school district has denied it spied on students by remotely activating the cameras on their school-issued MacBook notebooks.

Per Macworld UK, in a statement released late on Thursday, Christopher McGinley, the superintendent of Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pa., admitted that the MacBooks’ cameras could be turned on without the user’s knowledge, but said that the functionality was part of a security feature.

“Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off-school property,” said McGinley. “The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student.” When switched on, the feature was limited to taking snapshots of whomever was using the notebook and capturing the computer’s current screen.

Laptop cameras have only been activated for that purpose, McGinley continued. “The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever,” he said.

This Tuesday, a high school student and his parents sued the district, claiming that the student’s MacBook had been used to spy on him in his home. According to the lawsuit, Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley, Pa., said they first found out about the alleged spying last November after their son Blake was accused by a Harriton High School official of “improper behavior in his home” and shown a photograph taken by his laptop.

Doug Young, a spokesman for the school district, declined to answer questions as to whether Blake Robbins’ computer camera had been activated, and if so, under what circumstances. “I can’t speak to the lawsuit,” Young said.

The lawsuit speaks for itself, said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is utterly shocking, and a blatant violation of [the students'] constitutional rights,” Bankston said Thursday, citing the Fourth Amendment after reviewing the Robbins’ complaint. “The school district would have no more right to [use the laptop's webcam] than to install secret listening devices in the textbooks that they issued students.”

Bankston suggested that students should tape over the lens of their laptops’ cameras when not in use.

McGinley confirmed that the district had disabled the camera activation feature on Thursday, and would not switch it back on without the written consent of students and families. The Robbins’ lawsuit alleged that the district had not told students or their families of the activation feature when it handed out the MacBooks. All 2,300 students at the district’s two high schools have been given notebooks.

The district intends to contest the lawsuit, said Young.

Mark Haltzman of the law firm Lamm Rubenstone, and the Robbins’ attorney, did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

The Robbins family has asked for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and requested that the case be granted class-action status so other students in the district can join the suit.

Apple Improves 27″ iMac Ship Time, Raises Cap on 3G Downloads

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Date: Friday, February 19th, 2010, 05:33
Category: iMac, iPhone, News

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Following Apple’s recent troubles with its 27″ iMac and a wait time of up to three weeks, AppleInsider is reporting that the company has dropped the ship time to five to seven days, suggesting that the company has managed to address the video issues that haunted the desktops. The change applies to both the Core 2 Duo and Core i5 powered versions of the computer.

Early adopters of the big-screen iMac have seen a number of hardware issues pertaining to the screen, with reports of flickering and yellow discoloration. The company released two software updates to fix the issues, and also reportedly offered some customers a 15 percent refund for their troubles.

Supplies of the 27-inch iMac have been constrained for months, with Apple in December even apologizing for delays, citing considerable demand form consumers. When it first launched in October, the new iMac was the best-selling desktop machine for the month. The 21.5″ iMac came in first place, while the 27-inch iMac took third in overall sales.

In other news, Apple quietly doubled the download limit for files from the iPhone App Store and iTunes via 3G. Users can now download files up to 20MB in size from a wireless carrier’s data network. The previous cap was 10MB for “over the air” downloads.

In addition to applications, the new limit also applies to multimedia files, such as podcasts available through iTunes. The update expands beyond AT&T in the U.S., with international reports stating the 10MB cap has also been lifted.

If you’ve played around with the new limit, let us know.

Adobe CTO Defends Against Rumored Flash Criticism From Jobs

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Date: Thursday, February 18th, 2010, 05:22
Category: News, Software

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Adobe Chief Technical Officer defended the Flash platform this week against rumored comments from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and also said performance improvements for the scrutinized, embattled Web platform are coming to the Mac.

Per BoomTown, Lynch stated that unlike Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ rumored comments, the Adobe staff wasn’t lazy and said he and his team work very hard on their company’s product.

“It feels pretty busy around here, so I’m not sure what that’s about,” Lynch said. “And that’s a rumor. I haven’t heard that necessarily he did say that. But maybe he did, whatever.”

He went on to say that regardless of whether Jobs said anything disparaging about Adobe, he and the company are receptive to public criticism. He said they are working to improve the Flash experience for users.

“We’re totally open to hearing feedback like that,” Lynch said. “And that’s one of the really important things to do in a situation like this, when people are complaining about something — not going into internal mode, or whatever, (but) really listening to what people are saying. We do that with our customers, we do that with our critics, and often there are kernels in there that we ought to do something about, and so we are.”

Lynch then revealed that Adobe is working to improve the performance of Flash on the Mac. Currently, he admitted, video renders are more processor intensive on Apple’s hardware than they are on Windows machines.

He also made note of Adobe’s forthcoming Creative Suite 5 for Mac, which he said is “just terrific.”

“We work with Apple all of the time,” Lynch said. “We’re one of the biggest Macintosh software makers around.”

Lynch said that 19 of the top 20 smartphone makers (Apple being the only one absent) have signed on to the company’s Open Screen Project and its push for Flash on mobile devices. He also said that 85% of the top Web sites on the Internet feature Flash content.

But Flash’s spotty performance history on the Mac platform and processor-intensive requirements have led Apple to support alternatives such as HTML5. The Cupertino, Calif., company has even encouraged developers to “stick with standards” and use CSS, JavaScript and Ajax instead of Adobe Flash.

Lynch told Swisher that Adobe is supportive of the progression of HTML, including HTML5. This week it was said that an Adobe official was attempting to hold up advancement of the HTML5 spec, though those claims were later disputed.

“I know that there are certainly some who are working on HTML5 who are out to kill Flash,” Lynch said, adding that he doesn’t see the push for HTML5 as a move to “kill” Flash.

As always, feel free to hurl your two cents in on this.

Apple Offers Extended Warranty Program for MacBook Hard Drives

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Date: Wednesday, February 17th, 2010, 04:15
Category: hard drive, MacBook, News

If the hard drive on your older MacBook Pro was starting to go south, Apple may have something for you.

Per CNET, Apple is now offering the MacBook Repair Extension Program for hard-drive issues on machines purchased roughly between May 2006 and December 2007. Customers experiencing hard-drive issues should take their machines to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Reseller to have it diagnosed.

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The primary sign of hard drive troubles on your MacBook is the flashing question mark when starting up. Should your machine fall into the eligible model range, you will be given a replacement drive, free of charge.

Apple has published a knowledge base article relating to the program and listed the following models as affected units:

- 13-inch black and white MacBook models with the following processor speeds and hard-drive capacities:
- Processor speed – 1.83GHz, 2GHz, or 2.16GHz
- Hard drive capacity – 60GB, 80GB, 100GB, 120GB, or 160GB

If you’ve already paid for an out-of-warranty repair, Apple also offered the following:

“Some customers may have paid for out-of-warranty repairs that qualify under this program. Apple will contact affected customers (where contact information is available) with details on the reimbursement process. If you believe that you paid for a repair covered by this program and you have not been contacted, you may contact Apple Technical Support.

This worldwide Apple program does not extend the standard warranty coverage of the MacBook but covers affected MacBook models for 3 years from their original date of purchase or until August 15th, 2010, whichever provides longer coverage. Apple will continue to evaluate the repair data and will provide further repair extensions if needed.”

As always, hurl in your two cents and let’s see how Apple handles this.

Adobe Reader 9.3.1 Out the Door

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Date: Wednesday, February 17th, 2010, 03:27
Category: News, Software

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Late Tuesday, Adobe released version 9.3.1 of Acrobat Reader, the company’s Portable Document Format reader and creation utility.

Adobe Systems has updated Reader to version 9.3.1 and the update is available through the Adobe Updater application or for download through Adobe’s Web site.

The new versions address a number of customer workflow issues, security vulnerabilities, and offer additional stability.

Adobe Reader 9.3.1 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run and is available for free.

Battery-Powered Wi-Reach Classic Converts 3G/4G Cards Into Wi-Fi Hotspot

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Date: Tuesday, February 16th, 2010, 08:18
Category: News

This could be nifty.

Per Business Wire, Connect One‘s battery powered Wi-Reach Classic allows users to insert a 3G or 4G USB card to create a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that can allow up to 10 Wi-Fi-enabled devices to connect to the Internet. The device will support the WiMax and LTE protocols after a future firmware update and car reportedly run for up to five hours on a full charge as well as recharge over a USB connection.

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The Wi-Reach Classic is available now for US$99.

Powermat Designing Wireless Battery Packs for iPhone, Blackberry, Other Handsets

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Date: Tuesday, February 16th, 2010, 04:53
Category: iPhone, News

Powermat, a firm that specializes in wireless charge pads for handsets, has announced that the company will begin making wireless battery packs that will enable handsets to be recharged without the need for an accessory device to pick up the charge.

Per Macworld UK, the present Powermat charging approach is to embed a rechargable cell into the outside of an iPod or other smartphone sleeve. This additional cover is then placed in contact with the Powermat charging device that holds the charge.

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Any device can be recharged using a Powermat, but it must have a corresponding rechargeable cell. Powermat currently sells a mat on which three separate devices can be simultaneously charged and is about to launch dual-device and single device versions.

The company has also developed batteries that can be recharged using the same technique but without the need for a smartphone jacket. Instead, the regular lithium-ion battery is removed and switched for a Powermat one designed specially for the item.

A small amount of power is required in order to enable the Powermat battery to work, but this is embedded in the replacement cover for the phone in question. The Powermat battery will be sold with the charging plate cover as part of the bundle. Charging time and power supplied are comparable to those of a lithium-ion equivalent.

Over at the Mobile World Congress show, representatives stated that Powermat is in talks with many of the best-known handset makers with a view to offering such a wireless charging solution as an accessory or even as part of the standard bundle.

It hopes manufacturers will adopt the idea and offer it to consumers for free, rather than charging customers for the convenience of being able to wirelessly charge their phones by placing them on a special mat.

Apple Set to Offer Fairplay DRM Access to Book Publishers

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Date: Tuesday, February 16th, 2010, 04:19
Category: iPad, News

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Digital Rights Management software has never been universally popular, though Apple is offering publishers a crack at it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Apple will use the DRM to prevent piracy of titles sold on the multimedia device. Apple abandoned restrictive DRM for music titles last year when it removed FairPlay from the iTunes Music Store.

FairPlay restricted the number of devices that could have access to purchased content. Its use was the subject of great debate and criticism until Apple removed it in 2009.

While the content of the iTunes Music Store is currently DRM-free, Apple still uses the technology for movies and TV shows purchased through iTunes. Now, similar restrictions could reportedly be extended to some e-books sold for the iPad, though the article suggested publishers will have a choice.

“The majority of publishers are expected to embrace FairPlay, along with other copy protection software such as Adobe’s Content Server 4, as a means to squelch incipient book piracy as the e-book market begins to take off.”

When it introduced the iPad last month, Apple highlighted five major publishers that will offer content for the device. The iBooks application includes the iBookstore, where bestsellers are expected to be priced between US$12.99 and US$14.99.

The price range has been the subject of debate for publishers, who were previously unhappy with the standard US$9.99 price for new hardcover bestsellers sold on the Amazon Kindle e-reader. Amazon has reluctantly agreed to publisher demands and is expected to offer higher e-book prices with the release of the iPad in March.

O2, Orange Form Alliance to Compete with App Store

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Date: Monday, February 15th, 2010, 06:27
Category: iPhone, News

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Maybe it’s flattering when dozens of companies attempt to take you down.

Per Macworld UK, mobile phone providers O2 and Orange will team with leading mobile phone companies across the world to create a new open application platform that could rival Apple’s iTunes App Store.

The new consortium, will be announced by industry trade body the GSM Association at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona today.

América Móvil, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT, mobilkom Austria group, MTN Group, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Orascom Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, SingTel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, VimpelCom, Vodafone and Wind are all involved in the plans.

The group has stated that it wants to create an ecosystem for the development and distribution of mobile and internet applications irrespective of device or technology, uniting a fragmented industry.

Three of the world’s largest device manufacturers – LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony Ericsson – also support the new initiative.

Ultimately, the group will collectively work with the W3C for a common standard based on a converged solution to ensure developers can create applications that port across mobile device platforms, and in the future between fixed and mobile devices.