Skype to purchase GroupMe, looks to add group texting, added conference call support to application

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Date: Monday, August 22nd, 2011, 08:59
Category: News, Software

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When in doubt, try to have your software become more functional.

Per Macworld, Internet calling company Skype said Sunday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire GroupMe, a startup that offers a free group text messaging and conference call service on mobile phones.

Skype did not disclose how much it is paying for GroupMe.

Set up in 2010, GroupMe offers its application on Apple’s iOS, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, and phones running the Android operating system. In July the company launched a version of its application for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. A short message service (SMS) version for users without smartphones is also available in the U.S.

GroupMe also introduced earlier this month a new version of its application that supports direct messaging to a person in the group, and “questions” that can be directed to a few people, members of a group, or all known users, or broadcast over Twitter and Facebook. GroupMe 3.0 also allows users to manage groups, send messages, share photos, and ask questions from a website, without downloading the application.

As part of the deal with Skype, GroupMe will remain in New York, with its team intact and working on its standalone application, GroupMe said in a blog post.

GroupMe will continue to be a separate application, a Skype spokeswoman said in an email on Monday. Skype and GroupMe will work together on integration areas, she added, but did not provide details.

For Skype, which already offers voice and video services, the acquisition of GroupMe will add the ability to offer text messaging for groups as well. Through the acquisition, Skype continues its drive to provide global multi-modal and multi-platform communications, the company said.

Microsoft said in May that it has agreed to buy Skype for US$8.5 billion. Once the merger is complete, Microsoft plans to add Skype support to its Xbox and Kinect gaming devices and Windows Phone mobile operating system, and connect Skype users with its own Lync, Outlook and Xbox Live communications services.

The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and potential regulatory approvals, and will likely be closed by the end of this month, the spokeswoman said. GroupMe will continue as a separate and independent company until the transaction is closed, she added.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

4G LTE network code located in iOS 5 beta code

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Date: Monday, August 22nd, 2011, 04:10
Category: iPhone, Rumor

If you were hankering for 4G LTE speeds on the upcoming iPhone 5, your wish might come true.

Per MacRumors, evidence has surfaced that Apple has built 4G Long-Term Evolution testing code into beta builds of iOS 5, prompting further speculation that the iPhone maker will adopt the standard in future versions of its mobile devices.

Recently, a rumor emerged that Apple’s carrier partners have begun testing an iPhone prototype with LTE, based in part on code reportedly from an internal iOS test build that was sent to “one of Apple’s major carrier partners.” That code has now been found in recent builds of iOS 5 issued to developers.

The GSM iPhone 4 and CDMA iPad 2 builds of iOS 5 apparently contain an LTE.plist file with a “key” tag for a “Connected mode LTE Intra-frequency Measurement.” However, the file is not found in other “counterpart” versions of iOS 5 and has only been located in “at least the last couple” of beta builds of the forthcoming upgrade.

LTE is the 4G network standard of choice for carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, with real-world data rates of between 5 and 12 megabits per second downstream, and 2 to 5 Mbps up. Verizon launched its network first late last year, while AT&T plans to reach 70 million customers in 15 markets by the end of 2011.

Though rumors have suggested that Apple’s partners are testing LTE iOS devices, separate reports claim LTE technologies will not be ready for Apple to mass produce until at least 2012. Qualcomm’s LTE chips are said to be experiencing problems with “yield rates” that will prevent Apple from implementing them this year.

Last week, spy shots allegedly showing LTE equipment being installed at a “major” Apple Store followed on the heels of the rumor that Apple’s carrier partners have been testing an LTE-capable iPhone. The leaked photos drew speculation that Apple was improving LTE signals in its stores ahead of the release of some kind of LTE-compatible device from the company.

It should be noted that there has yet to emerge any strong evidence that Apple will include LTE in the fifth-generation iPhone, which is expected this fall. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said in April that “the first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset,” some of which the company is unwilling to make.

Executives from Verizon and China Mobile have hinted that Apple is planning an LTE iPhone, but have been unable to provide further details.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

Onyx 2.4.0 released, now available for use with Mac OS X 10.7

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Date: Monday, August 22nd, 2011, 04:52
Category: News, Software

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Onyx, Titanium Software’s popular freeware multifunction utility for Mac OS X, has been updated to version 2.4.0. The new version, a 6.6 megabyte download adds the following fixes and changes:

– New version for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion only.

Onyx 2.4.0 requires Mac OS X 10.7 or later to install and run.

How To Make Your Own Lion Boot Drive

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Date: Friday, August 19th, 2011, 14:54
Category: Apple, Hacks, How-To, Installation, Lion, Mac, Retail Store, Software, Tutorial

Apple has finally released its $69.99 Lion (OS X 10.7) flash drive, but is it really worth $40 on top of the cost of the Lion upgrade? Well, yes and no. If you need to perform a clean install, perhaps due to a faulty system, or if you are an IT professional, it is essential to be able to do a clean install of Lion from some kind of external disk. If you are not particularly tech savvy, the Apple flash drive provides you with a no-worry solution, but at a premium. However, if you are willing to follow a few simple steps, you can create your own Lion flash boot drive. To start, you will need two things, an empty 4 GB flash drive (8 GB is recommended if you want to add utilities) and the Lion update download package from the Mac App Store. It is important that you create your boot drive BEFORE you run the updater, or make a backup of it on another drive. Once you run it, the updater will delete itself from your hard drive. The process involves opening the installer package and digging into the guts to find the appropriate files to copy to the flash drive so you can boot from it. You can find complete instructions on the SubRosaSoft blog here. If possible, try to get a flash drive with a fast read time. Any flash drive should be faster than a DVD, but the faster the drive, the less time it takes to boot into the installer. Personally, I choose the Patriot Xporter XT Rage 8 GB high-speed flash drive, which is rated at 27 MB/s read time, but is reported to achieve higher practical speeds. It is currently on Amazon for $16.99, a savings of $23 compared to Apple’s.

A second, easier, option has been provided by Guillaume Gète, a programmer in Paris, who has created an app called Lion DiskMaker. Lion DiskMaker is a small application programmed with AppleScript that you can use with Mac OS X 10.6 or 10.7 to burn a DVD or build a bootable USB key from Mac OS X Lion’s Installation program. As soon as you launch the application, it checks the presence of Mac OS X Lion Installer in your Mac’s Applications folder, or tries to find one using Spotlight. Then, it offers options to build a DVD or create bootable install disk. USB and FireWire drives are supported, as well as SD-Cards. You can download the program from Guillaume’s web site here. The program is free, but if you find it useful, you can make a donation (which I recommend). I gave it a try and it works great!

I feel much better knowing I have a separate installer, especially since I have done upgrades on my current Mac from 10.4 to 10.5 and finally to 10.6. It is probably about time for me to do a clean install to shake out any possible software quirks. By the way, if you are nervous about whether your current software will play nice with Lion, check out the web site RoaringApps.com which has an ongoing list of software and its compatibility with Lion.

Rumor: iPhone 5 to launch in early October

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Date: Friday, August 19th, 2011, 10:08
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per Boy Genius Report, the iPhone 5 is likely to be unveiled in a matter of weeks before hitting the market sometime in early October, a high-ranking AT&T official is reported to have told staffers of the U.S wireless carrier.

Citing one of its “high-level AT&T sources,” the article claims that the iPhone 5 is slated to launch in early October following an introduction at a media event sometime later next month. “Expect things to get really, really busy in the next 35-50 days, so prepare your teams accordingly,” the executive is reported to have said.

While the report offers no further details, the timeframe is consistent with a rumor that stated last week that its sources have indicated that Friday, October 7th is currently tracking as day Apple hopes to begin shipping the device.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to switch to unlimited and pay-per-use text messaging plans on August 21st

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Date: Friday, August 19th, 2011, 03:36
Category: iPhone, News

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Well, at least this chunk of your AT&T bill might become a bit more reasonable…

Per AppleInsider, beginning August 21, new AT&T customers will only be able to choose between unlimited text messaging plans starting at US$20, or pay 20 cents for each text message and 30 cents for a picture or video message.

AT&T confirmed on Thursday that existing customers with other text messaging plans, such as US$10-per-month for 1,000 messages, will be grandfathered in. Customers who switch to a new phone will also be able to retain their old text messaging plan.

The carrier also confirmed that new AT&T customers who buy an unlimited plan starting at US$20-per-month will still receive unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes to any other U.S. cellphone customer. The “Mobile to Any Mobile” offer launched in February, coinciding with the launch of the Verizon iPhone.

For those who opt to not buy an unlimited messaging plan, AT&T charges 20 cents per text message sent, while picture and video messages run 30 cents on a pay-per-use pricing system.

The last major change to AT&T’s plans came in 2010 just before the iPhone 4 launched. The carrier began capping new data plans at 2GB for US$25 per month, though like with the upcoming text messaging change, legacy customers with unlimited plans have been grandfathered in.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype WiFi out the door, focuses on offering cheap Internet access abroad

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Date: Thursday, August 18th, 2011, 06:44
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

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You asked for a cheap way to communicate on the road and Skype seems to have something to offer…

Per AppleInsider, Skype on Wednesday released a new iOS application that will offer iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users access to over 1 million WiFi hotspots around the globe for a nominal pay-as-you-go basis.

The Skype WiFi application offers those on the go an alternative to pricey international data plans, which can fetch around US$25 for just 20MB worth of downloads, by allowing them to connect to locally available WiFi hotspots for as little as 6 cents per minute.

Skype says it is working with a third party WiFi operators to provide access to “over 1 million WiFi hotspots around the world, including hotels, airports, train stations, convention centers, bars and restaurants,” thus eliminating extra data roaming costs or other WiFi voucher purchases.

The application itself — previously known as Skype Access — is available as a free download from the App Store, but requires that users purchase Skype Credits in order to connect to one of the supported hotspots.

Prices for access to Skype WiFi hotspots start at US$0.06/4p/€0,05 (inclusive of VAT) and there is no data cap in place, which means iPhone, iPod and iPod touch users can use the same hotspot connection without worrying about any traffic limitations.

In order to promote the app’s launch, Skype said it plans to offer up to 60 minutes (or four 15-minute sessions) of free internet access for each unique Skype ID starting Saturday, August 20, 00:00 BST until Sunday, August 21, 23:59BST.

Skype WiFi requires iOS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the new app and have any feedback to offer, let us know what you think in the comments.

Controversy surfaces over Kagi’s VisualHub updater

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Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, 11:41
Category: News, Software

There’s good news and bad news.

The good news: VisualHub, a beloved video converter utility that exported to roughly nine zillion formats but was discontinued in 2008, has been updated with support from the author.

The bad news: It apparently wasn’t updated in a way that the author, Tyler Loch, approved of. Per Macworld, Kagi, a popular payment processor for independent software developers, recently began selling a US$5 Lion-compatibility patch for the discontinued-in-2008 VisualHub video converter that Loch stated he didn’t authorize—and isn’t getting paid for. Kagi has taken steps to defend the move, arguing that it’s merely helping less tech-savvy customers that the developer abandoned.

Though Loch no longer offers support for VisualHub, Loch did post updated files and instructions for getting VisualHub to work under Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”).

After receiving complaints from customers about Lion compatibility, however, Kagi—VisualHub’s former payment processor—decided to offer its own vHub Updater for VisualHub patch for US$5, without informing Loch.

Per the article, representatives from Kagi explained that the US$5 updater Kagi now sells merely wraps the updates that Loch offers on his own site in a more usable interface. Loch’s instructions for updating VisualHub require copying a trio of AppleScript files into the app’s package contents; he also recommends installing an updated copy of the open source conversion utility ffmpeg.

The Kagi app “downloads his patches, and we also download the new ffmpeg,” installing all necessary files without additional user involvement. The updater avoids altering your original copy of VisualHub, instead creating a duplicate application called “VisualHub Lion.”

At this point, there’s a significant amount of back and forth between Loch and Kagi, representatives from Kagi stating that, with regard to the vHub Updater, “we would be pleased if Tyler was to release an updater that performs the function that our vHub Updater performs,” Nethery said. “His users deserve better than to be completely abandoned in 2008 and to be asked to be technical enough to edit an application package. We just want the customers to get the support they deserve.”

For his part, Loch pointed out that—though open-source forks of the code at the center of VisualHub exist—“VisualHub, as it exists in the world, is not. I gave no permission and had no prior knowledge of Kagi hosting, redistributing, and indirectly selling the components I wrote in [vHub Updater].”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.7.1 update

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 14:34
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released Mac OS X 10.7.1, the update to its recently-released Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” operating system. The update, a 79.1 megabyte download, features the following fixes and changes:

– Address an issue that may cause the system to become unresponsive when playing a video in Safari.

– Resolve an issue that may cause system audio to stop working when using HDMI or optical audio out.

– Improve the reliability of Wi-Fi connections.

– Resolve an issue that prevents transfer of your data, settings, and compatible applications to a new Mac running OS X Lion.

The update can be located, downloaded and installed via the Software Update feature in Mac OS X.

Mac OS X 10.7.1 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7 to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Apple begins selling $69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB thumb drive

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 06:11
Category: News, retail, Software

If you don’t have a killer broadband connection, then this can’t hurt.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is now selling the US$69 Mac OS X 10.7 USB install drive in its online store.

Buying Lion on a physical medium from Apple’s online store carries a price more than twice that of the digital download. The drive ships for free in one to three business days.

“OS X Lion is available on a USB thumb drive for installation without the need for a broadband Internet connection,” Apple’s official product description reads. “Just plug the drive into your USB port and follow the instructions to install. OS X Lion is also available for a lower price as a digital download from the Mac App Store.”

In addition to the lower price, Apple also incentivized users to buy Lion from the Mac App Store buy giving it a month’s head start over the USB thumb drive. The 3.49GB operating system install became available for download on July 20.

The product also comes with an “Important Note” from Apple: “When you install OS X Lion using the USB thumb drive, you will not be able to reinstall OS X Lion from Lion Recovery. You will need to use the USB thumb drive to reinstall OS X Lion.”

Lion marks the first operating system release from Apple where a download is the preferred install method. AppleInsider was first to report in May that Apple planned to push users toward buying through the Mac App Store.

The last version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, also carried at US$29.99 price tag, but its default distribution method was on a physical DVD. When Apple redesigned its thin-and-light MacBook Air in 2010, it came with a USB thumb drive to reinstall Snow Leopard, as Apple began to move away from disc drives in its Mac lineup.

Apple did not reveal until Lion became available on the Mac App Store in July that a USB thumb drive would be sold in August. But the company also noted that users who do not have broadband access at home, work or school can download the multi-gigabyte install file from the Mac App Store at its retail stores at no extra cost.

If you’ve snagged the thumb drive and have any feedback to offer about the install, let us know what you think in the comments.