F-Secure identifies new Mac trojan masquerading as Flash Player update

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Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2011, 02:28
Category: News, security, Software

Sometimes you get the feeling that that the security war never really ends.

Per Macworld, F-Secure has reported on a new, scarier-than-usual Mac Trojan horse masquerading as a Flash installer. The downside is that if you do fall victim to the Trojan, it disables your Mac’s automatic malware definition updates.

F-Secure, which has a report on the issue, has dubbed the new pest Trojan-Downloader:OSX/Flashback.C; Macworld reported on a previous version of the malware back in September. A Trojan horse works by fooling you into running it; in this case, Flashback disguises itself as an installer package for Flash Player.

The earlier incarnation of the Flashback Trojan horse sent information about your Mac back to a remote server, which was bad enough, but this new version disables the security definition updating mechanism Apple first introduced in Snow Leopard back in May; the same malware protection is included in Lion, too. If you install the rogue software, it prompts you for your administrator password. Enter that, and Flashback.C wipes out files necessary for the malware definition updating process to run properly.

By disabling the malware definitions update, Flashback.C attempts to ensure that your Mac won’t know about any update Apple releases to remove the malicious software. Notably, the Trojan horse bails and deletes itself if you have the Little Snitch app installed.

F-Secure offers removal instructions if you fear you’ve been infected; the fix involves deleting entries from your browsers’ .plist files. Check out F-Secure’s page if you’re concerned, but you only need to worry if you recently installed Flash Player from a download that you didn’t get from Adobe’s website.

If you’ve seen this trojan on your end or have any feedback on it, please let us know in the comments section.

Apple confirms C Spire Wireless as fourth U.S. iPhone carrier

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Date: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011, 09:39
Category: iPhone, News

The south shall rise again.

This time, with its own wireless carrier for the iPhone.

Per Macworld, C Spire Wireless will join Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T as the fourth U.S iPhone carrier. The company, which functions as the largest privately-held cellular carrier in the country, announced on Wednesday that it will begin offering the iPhone 4S “in the coming weeks.”

C Spire is a regional carrier; until last month, it did business as Cellular South. The company accepts customers primarily in the southeast, focusing on Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. Dave Miller, C Spire’s Media Relations Manager, stated that he couldn’t yet comment on whether the company would also carry the iPhone 4 or 3GS, though he did say “more details will be coming out soon about all the Apple devices we will offer.” C Spire is a CDMA carrier, like Sprint and Verizon.

Like Sprint, C Spire currently offers plans that include unlimited data. Miller indicated that he couldn’t yet confirm what plans the company would offer for the iPhone 4S, but declared that C Spire offers “what we consider the best plan in the industry, the 80/40 plan.” That plan offers unlimited minutes, text, and data for US$80 per month for your first line, and US$40 for additional lines.

An Apple spokesperson also confirmed that C Spire will carry the iPhone 4S soon.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you have any feedback from your experience with C Spire, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.1 update, addresses iTunes library connection bugs

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 09:19
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

It’s the smaller updates that make a difference.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has provided another minor update intended to fix bugs for its Apple TV set-top box.

Apple TV software update version 4.4.1 is now available for download on the device. It can be obtained by navigating to “General,” then “Settings,” and choosing Update Software.

According to Apple, the software update addresses an issue that required a small number of Apple TV units to be connected to iTunes in order to complete last week’s 4.4 update.

One of the major features added with last week’s iOS 5 update is AirPlay mirroring, which allows a user to send their iPad 2 display wirelessly to the Apple TV. It also allows console-style gaming via supported titles like Real Racing 2 HD.

Last week’s Apple TV update also added access to Apple’s new iCloud-powered Photo Stream feature, which automatically uploads pictures taken with an iPhone or iPad 2 and shares them among iOS devices. With the update, users can view Photo Stream pictures on their HDTV.

The update also added access to iTunes Trailers, Wall Street Journal Live, and the ability to watch live games through the National Hockey League’s GameCenter subscription service.

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

Apple now requiring customers to go through online reservation system before purchasing an iPhone 4S at an Apple Store retail location

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 04:59
Category: iPhone, News, retail

You’re going to need to call ahead.

Per AppleInsider, Apple said on Monday that customers looking to purchase a new iPhone 4S from its US or Canadian based retail outlets will first be asked to make a reservation online, suggesting that record-setting sales of the device coupled with an upcoming international expansion are straining availability.

Apple’s “how-to-buy” iPhone webpage now advises that customers can check back online after 9 p.m. where they can attempt to make a reservation for pick up the following day. Customers can check stock availability at each store before they make a reservation, and must select which carrier, color, and capacity they require.

“The iPhone 4S is available in store by reservation only. Reserve yours after 9:00 p.m. tonight for pickup tomorrow. When you come in, you’ll choose a carrier and plan, and we’ll get your iPhone up and running before you leave the store.”

Apple is instituting the restrictions in other countries as well, noting that only on-contract phones are available to walk-in customers, while both on-contract and SIM-free models can be purchased by reserving the night before.

Apple’s in-store reservation requirement is nothing new and underwent significant re-engineering alongside the release of the second-gen iPad.

A source familiar with Apple’s retail operations stated this week that the new shipment of iPad 2 stock sold by some stores on Tuesday was actually delivered on Monday. Apple is said to have elected to hold the inventory for a next-day sale to grant its inventory control specialists the time to “calmly and accurately” process new shipments.

It was suggested that the change could be a “lesson learned” following the launch of major in-demand products in 2010: the iPhone 4 and first-generation iPad. For those launches, Apple’s reservation system was said to have been plagued by a myriad of problems, including technical glitches that caused reservations to disappear, and resellers attempting to “game” the system.

Apple’s previous strategy was to get products from the pallet to the shelf as fast as possible. But that approach was said to have caused “utter havoc” for Apple’s retail employees, and led to inventory inaccuracies.

Under the revised strategy, Apple retail stores know exactly how many units it has to offer up for reservations the following day, allowing it automatically accept a specific number of reservations that it can guarantee to customers.

In years past, any excess iPhones or iPhone reservations that go unclaimed by the end of the day are made available for sale to walk-in customers.

The iPhone 4S is currently available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K., with availability coming to 22 more countries by Oct. 28, and more than 70 countries by the end of the year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any feedback on your iPhone 4S purchase experience, please let us know in the comments.

MobileMe users vent frustrations about iCloud transition issues

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Date: Monday, October 17th, 2011, 11:02
Category: iCloud, News, Software

If you’re going to give birth to something (overarching cloud services included), you’re going to have some labor pains…

Per AppleInsider, a number of users have vented their frustrations as they have attempted to migrate from MobileMe to iCloud. One person explained in an e-mail that they have called AppleCare, used online support, and even asked for help at a local retail store.

“I bought a MobileMe subscription when they came out,” the user wrote in their e-mail. “Until Wednesday I didn’t (realize) this created a new (Apple ID). I asked (iTunes) support to add this MobileMe address to my current (iTunes Apple ID) as this was to become my primary email address.

“On Wednesday when iCloud came out it became apparent that this MobileMe email address could not be verified on the MobileMe account as it was in use by my old (iTunes Apple ID). So (I) went to appleid.apple.com to try to change the Primary email address to something different in my iTunes AppleID but it wouldn’t let me.” Calls made to AppleCare couldn’t resolve the problem, they said.

It’s a similar story for another user, who has one Apple ID used to purchase applications and music, which is separate from the e-mail address used for their MobileMe account. The person is in a position where they must choose between the e-mail address associated with their MobileMe account, or the Apple ID that they have used to purchase applications and music.

Another person said that upon setting up their iOS device, they were asked to create a me.com e-mail address, but they were unable to do this on an iOS device or a MacBook Air.

The users stated that after speaking with a senior technical support representative at Apple, they were told that Apple is “not allowing new me.com e-mail addresses,” but only allowing MobileMe accounts to be converted to iCloud. The representative allegedly indicated that Apple has been receiving many calls about the issue, but they do not know when a fix will be available.

A similar list of headaches for MobileMe users making the move to iCloud was also detailed Monday by Chris Foresman of Ars Technica. He noted that the issues can also apply to users who have shared an Apple ID with family members, allowing purchases like software from the App Store to be installed on multiple devices — a practice allowed with Apple’s terms of service.

“Unless all devices are going to be synced to the same data store — with everyone sharing contacts, calendars, and other information — other users who were previously dependent on that account may have to re-purchase apps or music,” he said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook allegedly indicated in an e-mail in September that Apple is working to allow users to merge multiple Apple IDs. But that ability has not yet arrived.

Apple launched its free iCloud service last Wednesday, along with the release of iOS 5 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and an update for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion adding iCloud support. iCloud will back up users’ personal data on their iOS device to Apple’s remote servers in the cloud, and also keeps data, documents, calendars and contacts synced across a number of devices with the use of an Apple ID.

If you’ve had any issues in your own MobileMe to iCloud transition, please let us know in the comments.

iLounge review finds iPhone 4S battery less robust for 3G data, media when compared to iPhone 4

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Date: Monday, October 17th, 2011, 10:25
Category: battery, iPhone, News

The good news is that the iPhone 4S is out and is being regarded as fairly spiffy.

The bad news is that its battery may not be the greatest thing in the known universe.

Per the iLounge review, the site compared the iPhone 4 battery to the iPhone 4S battery to test comparative better times given various functions.

For tests with 3G Data, Audio Playback, Video Playback, and Video Recording, iLounge found that the iPhone 4S came in under the iPhone 4’s battery life times. For Wi-Fi and FaceTime testing they found it to be similiar to the iPhone 4, and on cellular calls, they found the iPhone 4S slightly better.

One interesting finding with 3G data was that while their Verizon 4S unit ran for the same time as the AT&T model (~ 5 hours and 54 minutes), they found the Sprint model to lag at 5 hours and 23 minutes. Comparisons across mobile providers may not be completely fair due to differences in signal strength which could impact battery life.

In voice calls, they found the AT&T iPhone 4 and AT&T iPhone 4S to have comparable times of around 7 hours and 6-16 minutes. The Verizon 4S model, however, showed a surprising 8 hours and 27 minutes, while the Sprint 4S again lagged at 6 hours and 27 minutes. iLounge notes that the Verizon model may have shown 4 bars more often than the other two.

Both media playback and recording has taken a hit on the iPhone 4S as compared to the iPhone 4. For video recording, of course, it should be noted that the iPhone 4S is recording much higher resolution video than the iPhone 4.

Ultimately, their conclusion on iPhone 4S battery life is based on what your exact usage model is:

If you spend much of your day near a Wi-Fi network and only rely upon the iPhone 4S for web browsing and phone calling, you won’t notice a major difference—unless you’re thinking of switching to Sprint, in which case we’d be a little concerned. Similarly, if you use 3G data, plan to record or play videos, or want to listen to hours of audio during the day, you can expect greater battery drain from the iPhone 4S.

There may be some confounding data due to regional signal strengths, but given the other complaints about Sprint’s data speeds, it still seems to be the worst choice amongst the iPhone carriers.

In other news, some users have reported dramatically decreased battery life on their iPhone 4S. One solution to that is said to be the calibration of the battery, in which case you drain your entire battery once and then charge to full. Some have found their battery gauge to be inaccurate until this is performed. Apple includes other tips on their site about improving your battery life on the iPhone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve had a few days to tinker with the new iPhone 4S, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple sells over four million iPhone 4S units in first weekend of availability

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Date: Monday, October 17th, 2011, 06:48
Category: iPhone, News

If you were alive on Friday, you probably made an effort to snag a brand new iPhone 4S.

So did several million other people.

Per AppleInsider, Apple sold a total of 4 million units in its first three days of availability.

“iPhone 4S is off to a great start with more than four million sold in its first weekend—the most ever for a phone and more than double the iPhone 4 launch during its first three days,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “iPhone 4S is a hit with customers around the world, and together with iOS 5 and iCloud, is the best iPhone ever.”

Sales of four million iPhone 4S units in three days more than double’s the company’s previous record of 1.7 million iPhone 4 units sold in the summer of 2010.

Apple also revealed that more than 25 million customers are already using iOS 5, the latest mobile operating system upgrade for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Those 25 million customers have made the upgrade in just five days of availability.

More than 20 million customers have also signed up for iCloud, the set of free cloud-based services offered by Apple for iOS and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion users. iCloud will remotely store users’ data and push it to all of their devices, automatically.

The iPhone 4S is currently available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. Apple will launch its new iPhone in 22 more countries on Oct. 28, and it will be available in more than 70 countries by the end of the year.

A week ago, Apple announced that it had sold a million preorders of the iPhone 4S on its first day of availability. That provided the first hint that the iPhone 4S was on pace to have a record-breaking start when it went on sale.

The sale of four million iPhone 4S units at launch exceeds Wall Street expectations, which had called for Apple to sell around three million units over the weekend. Analysts have also called for Apple to sell around 25 million total iPhones this holiday quarter, which concludes in December.

If you snagged an iPhone 4S over the past few days and have any thoughts about it, please let us know what you make of Apple’s newest handset via the comments.

Microsoft completes Skype acquisition, deal still under review in some European countries

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Date: Friday, October 14th, 2011, 11:36
Category: News, Software

skypelogo.jpg

It had to happen sometime.

Per Macworld, Microsoft announced on Friday that it has closed its US$8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, the Internet telephony provider in Luxembourg, and the company will function as a new business division within Microsoft.

Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the new Skype Division immediately, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The acquisition is however still under review in a few countries, and will be completed in those countries when such reviews are closed, Microsoft said without naming the countries. The deal was cleared by the Department of Justice in the U.S. in June and antitrust regulators in the European Union this month.

Microsoft announced in May that it had agreed to acquire Skype, and said at the time that it would be integrated with Microsoft’s products, without affecting availability of the popular Internet telephony application on platforms from competitors.

The Skype division will continue to offer its current products to millions of users globally, Microsoft said on Friday. In the long term, Skype will also be integrated across an array of Microsoft products to broaden Skype’s reach and accelerate its growth as a fundamental way for people to communicate online, it added.

Founded in 2003, Skype was acquired by eBay in September 2005, and then acquired by an investment group led by Silver Lake in November 2009. Other members of the selling investor group led by Silver Lake include eBay International, CPP Investment Board, Joltid in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors, and Andreessen Horowitz, Microsoft said.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you make of the deal in the comments.

PocketMac unveils BerryMover, helps with BlackBerry-to-iPhone migration

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Date: Friday, October 14th, 2011, 10:33
Category: iPhone, News, Software

This could be useful.

Per the cool cats at the Apple Core, Information Appliance Associates on Tuesday released BerryMover, an app capable of bringing Blackberry data files over to an iOS-based device.

BerryMover allows you to open the Blackberry backup file and can recover calendars, contacts, tasks, notes, email messages and text messages for the iPhone. The company said owners can “import as many backup files as you want.”

Developer and PocketMac co-founder Tim Goggin stated there was increasing demand for this Blackberry-to-iPhone migration utility. His company previously created the Mac-Blackberry sync software.

“We developed the app because a lot of people are moving away from the BlackBerry to their iPhone,” he said. “Overall, I think it shows how seriously business takes the iPhone that so many people are migrating from BlackBerry to it.”

He described the development process as tough, especially getting the iPhone to work with BlackBerry backups, he added.

BerryMover retails for $9.99 and requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad running iOS 4.2 or later to install and run.

Sprint clarifies iPhone 4S unlocking/roaming terms

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Date: Friday, October 14th, 2011, 09:18
Category: iPhone, News

With the launch of the iPhone 4S, Sprint cleared up its policy regarding international roaming on the new handset, announcing its intent to lock the phone’s micro-SIM slot and then unlock it for good customers only by request.

Per Macworld, on Thursday, Sprint spokesperson Michelle Leff Mermelstein issued a new statement to me regarding the iPhone 4S and international unlocking for Sprint customers.

Here’s the deal:

Indeed, the Sprint iPhone 4S will ship with its micro-SIM slot unlocked. However, Sprint now says that it will be locking that slot “shortly after launch” via an update pushed to those devices. After the slot has been locked, Sprint says that it will allow customers in good standing to unlock the SIM for international use in the future.

Mermelstein’s verbatim statement went as follows:

“Sprint’s policy is to have the iPhone 4S SIM locked to our network domestically and internationally. At launch, the International SIM will be unlocked. We do expect a SIM lock to be pushed to the devices shortly after launch. We will then allow existing customers in good standing to unlock the SIM for international use if needed in the future.

Customers can sign up for one of our international rate plans and use this phone all over the world. When traveling internationally, there is a setting that must be turned on within the device to connect to GSM. The phone will work with a SIM that is provided within the device out of the box. International voice and data charges are on a pay-as-you-go basis and vary based on the country where the customer is using their phone; a list of rates is available at www.sprint.com/international.”

Sprint offers two international voice plans that customers can subscribe to for discounted voice rates:

The Canada Roaming add-on is US$2.99 per month and all calls placed from Canada are only 20 cents per minute. Without this add-on, calls from Canada are 59 cents per minute.

The Sprint Worldwide Voice add-on is US$4.99 per month and offers discounted rates in countries around the world. For example, calls from Italy are US$1.69 per minute with this add-on or US$1.99 per minute without the add-on; calls from Peru are US$2.29 per minute with the add-on or US$2.49 per minute without it.

If you have your own take on this, please let us know in the feedback and comments.