VLC 1.1.10 update released

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Date: Monday, June 6th, 2011, 05:21
Category: News, Software

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Video Lan Client, the nigh-indispensable open source media player for multiple audio and video formats (MPEG, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Divx, ogg, etc.), was updated to version 1.1.10. The new version, a 43.9 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

– Security update regarding an integer overflow in xspf demuxer.

– Rewrite of the pulseaudio audio output module.

– Update of libmodplug for security reasons in Windows and Mac versions.

– Major updates in most language translations.

– Removal of the font-cache re-building on the freetype module on Windows.

– Numerous updates and fixes on the interface and look of VLC for Mac OS X.

– Many miscellaneous fixes in decoders, demuxers and subtitles.

– 3rd party libraries updates.

VLC 1.1.10 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

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

AT&T CEO drops hints at smaller SIM card format

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Date: Monday, June 6th, 2011, 05:50
Category: iPhone, News

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Prior to all the Worldwide Developers Conference hubbub, AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega said in an interview this week with All Things D that a smaller SIM card is a “no-brainer” and his company is looking into it, but declined to make the direct connection to Apple that the France Telecom CEO made last week.

When asked by All Things D’s Ina Fried whether AT&T is interested in the smaller SIM card that Apple and France Telecom have reportedly agreed upon, de la Vega acknowledged that the carrier is “working with the industry” to look at the possibility of smaller SIM cards. “I think that probably will happen,” he said.

In late May, France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard said in an interview that Apple and wireless carriers had reached a compromise to use a smaller SIM card format instead of an embedded SIM chip that Apple had expressed interest in. According to Richard, the next iPhone will be “smaller and thinner,” partially due to a reduction in the SIM card footprint.

Per another executive at Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom, Apple in May submitted a new requirement for a smaller SIM form factor to a European standards institute. The iPhone 4 and iPad currently utilize a micro-SIM solution.

Like Richard, de la Vega expressed a preference for a smaller SIM card over an embedded SIM. “We think that making the card smaller and shrinking the size is a no-brainer and we should be able to make that happen,” he said, in response to a question about the possibility of an e-SIM.

During the interview, de la Vega expressed disappointment at Windows Phone sales. “We actually like [Windows Phone 7] very, very much,” he said. “It hasn’t sold as well as Microsoft or us would want it to.”

Despite the lackluster sales, the AT&T CEO remained optimistic about Microsoft’s prospects. “I think for the first thing out of the chute it is pretty good,” he said. “I think they just need to make it better… Giving customers more application choices, having a bigger app store with more functionality on the phone–I think that is all that it needs.”

For de la Vega, the iPhone and Google’s Android have been “positive surprises,” while sales of Research in Motion’s devices have dropped off. “Android and Apple are really the hot products right now,” he added, noting that customers have been “choosing other products rather than traditional BlackBerries.”

The executive also challenged tablet makers to continue to raise standards in order to compete with Apple’s iPad. According to de la Vega, all the manufacturers who make smartphones are also offering AT&T tablets. “The question is which ones of those are good enough to stand up to the iPad. That’s a very high bar,” he said.

Speaking at the D9 conference earlier this week, de la Vega confirmed that AT&T is working on a shared data plan that would allow users to pool minutes and data plans between devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iCloud service to be initially free for certain customers, then available for $25/year

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:49
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

You can have it for free…for a while.

Per the Los Angeles Times, music industry insiders allege that Apple’s forthcoming iCloud service will have an initial free period for iTunes Music Store customers, but the company plans to eventually charge a US$25 a year subscription fee.

The newspaper confirmed on Thursday earlier reports that Apple had finalized contracts with the last of the major music labels, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

“The service initially will be offered for a free period to people who buy music from Apple’s iTunes digital download store,” the report read. “The company plans to eventually charge a subscription fee, about US$25 a year, for the service.”

It is unclear, though, whether the report refers to the cost of the whole iCloud service or just the streaming music feature. By comparison, MobileMe, Apple’s current online storage and sharing solution, costs US$99 a year.

In addition to charging a subscription fee, “Apple would also sell advertising around its iCloud service,” the report noted, without providing details on why Apple would both charge for the service and sell advertising. Sources also indicated that Apple “envisions the service to be used for movies, TV shows and other digital content sold through iTunes.”

Sources stated on Wednesday that Apple could offer general iCloud features free to Mac users who make the upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”), though a music streaming service would likely come with a price tag. Music industry executives have previously suggested that Apple’s cloud-based music service could be free at first, but would eventually cost money.

According to sources knowledgeable with the terms of Apple’s agreements with the music labels claim 70% of the revenue from iCloud’s music service will go to the labels and 12% will go to the publishers, leaving Apple with 18%, according to Thursday’s report.

However, those numbers contradict a report from CNet earlier on Thursday that alleged Apple would keep 30% of revenue and share 58% with the labels and 12% with publishers. That report also cited sources claiming Apple’s streaming music service won’t be available on Monday “but will be offered soon,” though it will reportedly store only music purchased from the iTunes.

Apple is set to unveil the service next Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Francisco, alongside a preview of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and the introduction of iOS 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

WHO study finds AT&T iPhone 4 emits “medium” amount of radiation

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:25
Category: iPhone, News

I’m not sure if this is comforting or otherwise.

In the wake of the World Health Organization’s report on cell phones and radiation, the Environmental Working Group has released a database of cell phone models with the highest and lowest rates of radiofrequency energy according to a CNN report. Per the report, Apple’s iPhone 4 (the AT&T version; the Verizon model wasn’t tested) falls in the middle range of emissions, which are measured using a Specific Absorption Rate of energy by the body written as “watts per kilogram.”

Cell phones sold in the U.S. cannot exceed a measure of 1.6 watts per kilogram of radiofrequency energy, but there is no study that shows an increased risk — or any risk — in using phones that emit higher or lower amounts. The WHO announcement, which was a change from their previous, more neutral position, comprised a review of hundreds of other peer-review studies — a compilation of known data — and concluded that cell phone radiation is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Often omitted from reports of the meta-study is that its principle recommendation was that the issue needed further study.

The database of phone radiation showed that Motorola had the model emitting the most energy per kilogram of energy, AT&T’s Bravo at 1.59 W/kg — just under the legal limit. The phone with the least amount of exposure was AT&T’s LG Quantum at 0.35 W/kg. Apple’s iPhone 4 tested at 1.17 W/kg, which ranks it about average. Samsung had a number of phones that were among the 10 lowest, while Motorola had the most phones in the top 10 highest, along with the Palm Pixi, the Blackberry Bold and the HTC Magic also ranking very high in energy absorbed by the body.

Cell phones, by their nature, emit and receive small amounts of microwave energy at all times while they are on — communicating with cell towers, updating GPS coordinates and of course being used for communication. Studies have been unsuccessful at establishing a clear link between cell phones and specific medical issues, even when the unit is held next to the head for prolonged periods. Radiation is naturally present in the atmosphere and from other sources, but how much the human body can absorb on a low-but-constant level without ill effects remains unclear.

Stay tuned for more on this as we get it.

Rumor: Apple, Universal reach licensing terms for iCloud music streaming

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:29
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

It’s never a bad thing when two parties come to terms on something.

Per CNET, Apple has signed a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, incorporating all four of the major record companies into its iTunes iCloud music plans.

Citing “sources with knowledge of the talks,” the reported today that, in addition to Universal, Apple has also reached agreements with “some of the large music publishers.”

Apple announced earlier this week that it would feature iCloud at its Worldwide Developers Conference next week, detailing its plans for the new web service.

It is believed that Apple’s iCloud will deliver a streaming media repository for users’ commercial digital content. iOS 5 is also expected to add new features that make it easy for users to automatically upload and publish their photos, movies, and other content directly from iOS mobile devices.

Apple already offers some basic streaming music and content sharing via MobileMe, but the new iCloud is understood to dramatically expand upon these features and add new ones.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Parallels Desktop 6.0.12090.660720 released

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 09:24
Category: News, Software

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Parallels Desktop, the popular virtualization application that allows users to run the Windows and Linux operating systems simultaneously alongside Mac OS X, reached version 6.0.12090.660720 on Thursday. The new version, available here, sports the following major fixes and changes:

– Adds support for Ubuntu 11.04 virtual machines.

– Improves mapping of Mac OS X system shortcuts to their equivalents in guest operating systems.

– Improves sharing clipboard between Windows and Mac OS X.

– Post about your exploring Windows on the Mac to Twitter and Facebook right from Parallels Desktop.

– Migrate multiple user accounts from a PC to your Mac using Parallels Transporter.

– Many issues have been fixed.

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac retails for US$79.99 and requires Mac OS X 10.5.2 later to install and run.

Microsoft looking to ARM processors, HTML5 for Windows 8 mobile strategy

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:38
Category: News, Software

There may be something to this whole HTML5 thing…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has provided a look at how it plans to bring Windows to more mobile devices in the future, leveraging ARM processors and using HTML5 as the basis of a new app platform.

As demonstrated at the D9 conference, Windows 8 will deliver a touch-centric new interface for apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that runs on top of the existing, conventional Windows platform.

The company showed off a new Start screen patterned after the tiled home page of Windows Phone 7. The company says the new tiled interface “replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.”

Microsoft’s mobile Windows CE core operating system differs dramatically from its desktop Windows operating system, but the two will grow closer together in appearance as Windows 8 adopts a similar, top level interface to Windows Phone 7 and the Zune.

In contrast, Apple’s desktop Mac OS X and mobile iOS share the same core operating system and use optimized versions of the company’s proprietary Cocoa development platform to deliver native apps, but differ in the interface they present, with Mac OS X retaining a mouse-based windowing environment while iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad present a completely rethought, touch-based interface.

Microsoft’s own efforts to build a cohesive development environment for both the Windows CE-based Windows Mobile 6 and its desktop Windows XP/Vista/7 platform initially revolved around the company’s .Net APIs before shifting Windows Phone 7 to use Microsoft’s Adobe Flash-like Silverlight as its mobile app platform.

Now, Microsoft is announcing a new shift that leverages the interest in HTML5 to deliver “web-connected and web-powered” apps (similar to HP’s webOS platform acquired from Palm) that will run alongside legacy Windows apps on the forthcoming Windows 8. Microsoft says this approach “is designed and optimized for touch,” although the company also says “it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard.”

Ironically, the new HTML5 layer of Windows 8 works like the Dashboard layer of Mac OS X, although rather than only supplying quick assess to simple widgets, the new “Windows 8 apps” are intended to supply a layer of highly animated, full screen, touch-based apps capable of competing with native apps running on Apple’s iPad.

Like Apple’s iOS, Windows 8 is intended to be deployed on highly mobile devices such as ARM-based tablets in addition to the conventional PCs Windows has powered in the past. Unlike Apple’s iOS, which became instantly popular on the iPhone before expanding to the iPod touch and iPad, Microsoft’s tile-based Zune interface hasn’t yet found a significant, sustainable audience. After the Zune failed, Microsoft KIN and Windows Phone 7 have both found little interest among consumers.

Microsoft’s radical experimentation with Windows Vista in 2007 caused a negative backlash from Windows PC users, which has only settled down with the more conservative release of Windows 7. Sales of PCs have yet to rebound to levels prior to the release of Vista, and new mobile devices, in particular Apple’s iPad, have siphoned off a significant amount of demand among generic PCs.

Microsoft does have considerable clout among its developers and hardware makers however, and describes the new Windows 8 as its biggest risk yet, hoping the new release, due sometime over the next couple years, will bring it back into relevance among new generations of consumers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

New “MAC Defender” malware variant surfaces, works way around recent security update

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:10
Category: News, security, Software

Only one day after Apple released a security update for Mac OS X to address the “MAC Defender” malware, a new variant of the bogus antivirus software has been spotted in the wild.

Per ZDNet, the new variation of MAC Defender, named “Mdinstall.pkg,” has been crafted to bypass the new malware-blocking code made available by Apple. That update for Mac OS X, Security Update 2011-003, was released on Tuesday.

“The file has a date and time stamp from last night at 9:24PM Pacific time,” Bott wrote. That’s less than 8 hours after Apple’s security update was released. On a test system using Safari with default settings, it behaved exactly as before, beginning the installation process with no password required.

“As PC virus experts know, this cat-and-mouse game can go on indefinitely. Your move, Apple.”

Security Update 2011-003 included changes to the File Quarantine feature found in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. It includes anti-malware definitions within the operating system itself, and examines external files downloaded within Mail, iChat, Safari, or other quarantine-aware applications.

The MACDefender malware first gained attention in early May, when it was spotted by an antivirus company. The program automatically downloads in Web browsers through JavaScript and originally required users to enter an administrator password, but a more recent variant does not ask for a password.

Some reports have suggested that the “MAC Defender” malware has spread quickly, with Bott earlier citing an anonymous AppleCare representative that apparently said the “overwhelming majority” of recent calls to Apple were related to the malware. Last week, Apple posted instructions on its site informing users on how to remove the malware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VMWare releases Fusion 3.1.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 04:41
Category: News, Software

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Late Friday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 3.1.3 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 150 megabyte download via MacUpdate, can be found here, offers the following new features and fixes:

– Microsoft Windows 7 Service Pack 1: Support for Windows 7 SP1 32-bit & 64-bit.

– Ubuntu: Support for Ubuntu 10.10 and 11.04 32-bit & 64-bit.

– Microsoft Office: Fixed a problem opening attachments in Outlook 2010.

– Video: Updated Windows WDDM driver with stability improvements.

– File access: Improved reliability accessing shared files on the Mac.

– Internet: Fixed slow first page loading in Internet Explorer 8.

– USB: Improved handling of smartphones including the Nokia N8.

Fusion 3.1.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and retails for US$79.99.

Apple, Google retain deal for map, search functionalities on iOS devices

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 03:34
Category: News, Software

The good news: The Google functionality on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad device isn’t going anywhere for a while.

Google Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt revealed Tuesday that his company had reached a deal with Apple to continue providing its maps and search technology for the iPhone.

Per Reuters, Schmidt, while speaking at the D9 conference organized by All Things D, said that Google’s relationship with Apple had gotten “rough” as competition between Android and iOS heated up, but they remained good partners in certain businesses.

Schmidt put to rest rumors that Apple planned to abandon Google’s maps and search technology in the iPhone. According to the executive, the two companies recently renewed their partnership to continue to provide services for the iPhone. “We just renewed our map and search agreements with Apple, and we hope those continue for a long time,” he said. Last year, it was suggested that Google pays Apple as much as US$100 million a year in a revenue sharing deal for searches made on the iPhone.

Schmidt also talked candidly about his company’s rivalry with Facebook. “We tried very hard to partner with Facebook ,” he noted. “They were unwilling to do the deal.” In hindsight, Schmidt said he would have pushed harder to compete with Facebook. “I screwed up,” he admitted.

Google co-founder Larry Page took over for Schmidt as CEO in April. Schmidt formerly served on Apple’s board of directors before stepping down due to a conflict of interest.

Apple does, however, appear to still be working on building out its own Maps team. In March, an Apple job listing was discovered for an iOS Maps Application Developer that would help “radically improve” Apple’s location-based services. Last year, Apple began using its own Maps location databases, though it still relies on Google for the maps themselves.

Last month, Apple revealed that it is collecting anonymous traffic data in order to build a “crowd-sourced traffic database,” though it was not immediately clear whether the use of the word “traffic” referred to network data or transportation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.