Microsoft releases version 14.0.1 update to Office 2011 suite, offers security, stability fixes

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Date: Wednesday, November 10th, 2010, 03:25
Category: News, Software

Roughly two weeks after launching Office 2011, Microsoft has rolled out an update that aims to improve the security and stability of the latest version of its office productivity suite.

Per Macworld, the release notes for the Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 14.0.1 Update say that the release fixes “critical issues” in the latest version of Office that could cause components of the suite to stop responding or quit unexpectedly. Microsoft says the update also fixes a security vulnerability that could allow an attack to overwrite the contents of a computer’s memory with malicious code.

As for performance and stability improvements in the 14.0.1 update, the company says that the update includes form-based authentication for connecting to Microsoft Office SharePoint Servers, allowing user credentials to be transmitted through HTML forms that users complete. The update also allows images copied from an Office for Mac application to be edited when copied back to ChemDraw; previously, images were locked when copied to the molecule editor.

Excel for Mac 2011 gets fixes that stop the spreadsheet program from crashing when a macro is enabled and allow cells to update when revisions are made to related data. The update also improves reliability when the FORMAT macro command is used. The update improves the stability of Word 2011 when users build equations, while bolstering stability of PowerPoint 2011 slideshows. Microsoft also improved compatibility with the Windows versions of its presentation software that now allows numbered lists to be displayed correctly in PowerPoint 2011.

Outlook 2011 gets a number of improvements in this update, including better reliability for deleting messages from multiple IMAP accounts, a Sync Services fix, and improved reliability for importing Office 2008 identities into the new version of the suite. The update also allows Outlook to retain e-mail passwords in the keychain after users import new accounts into the mail client.

Additional details can be located here and if you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

Tests demonstrate much-improved performance of iOS 4.2 on iPhone 3G handset

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Date: Tuesday, November 9th, 2010, 06:59
Category: iPhone, News, Software

For those of you hanging onto an iPhone 3G and hoping for something good to come out of the new iOS, there may be some good news in store.

Per TiPb, a recent series of tests has shown that the iPhone 3G’s performance is much improved under iOS 4.2:



According to the tests, entering text into Apple’s Notes app was acceptably snappy. Browsing the Web was also noticeably improved, especially scrolling and load times (over Wi-Fi). Some pinch-and-zoom was a bit laggy, but definitely worlds better than iOS 4.0 on a 3G.

Apple was recently hit with a class action lawsuit from California iPhone 3G user Bianca Wofford, who claims that Apple “…knowingly and intentionally released what it called a system software ‘upgrade’ that, in fact, made hundreds of thousands of the Third Generation iPhones (sic) that were exclusively tethered to AT&T data plans ‘useless’ for their intended purpose.”

iOS 4.2 is expected to be released this month with some media outlets citing the launch date as early as today.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.5 build 10H571, refines focus area for developers

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Date: Monday, November 8th, 2010, 05:43
Category: News, Software

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Late Friday, Apple released an additional beta of its forthcoming Mac OS X 10.6.5 update. Per World of Apple, the beta, labeled build 10H571, arrived 5 days after Apple released an internal “pre-release build.”

According to the release notes, developers who installed Thursday’s Mac OS X 10.6.6 beta will need to revert to 10.6.0-10.6.4 in order to install the latest 10.6.5 build. Focus areas for the build are: 3D Graphics, Printing, QuickTime, Time Machine and USB Devices.

The public release of Mac OS X 10.6.5, which is required to take full advantage of the soon-to-be-released iOS 4.2, is expected to come soon.

The iOS 4.2 update is scheduled for a November release.

Apple internal memo surfaces, cites dead pixel/replacement policies for hardware

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Date: Monday, November 8th, 2010, 05:14
Category: iPad, iPhone, News, retail

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A leaked memo dictating Apple’s internal policy on replacing devices with dead LCD pixels surfaced last week, revealing that the company will replace an iPhone if it has just one dead pixel, while an iPad must have at least three to qualify.

Per Boy Genius Report, the loose guidelines employees must follow when a customer attempts to return a device with bad pixels on its display state that one dead pixel is good enough for a replacement on a device with a screen size of between 1″ and 3.5″.

Apple’s 9.7″ iPad display must have three or more dead pixels for the unit to qualify for a replacement. Things get a bit more complicated with larger screens and devices such as notebooks, iMacs and the company’s Cinema Display demand that a distinction is made between “bright” and “dark” faulty pixels.

Apple Store Geniuses are, however, given some leeway. The internal document states that authorized service providers must explain to the customer that they can replace the product, but that replacement may have even more dead pixels or other issues. Apple will not replace the product again if the replacement product is within the written guidelines.

Members of Apple’s retail team also contacted The Unofficial Apple Weblog to clarify the company’s policy even further:

“If you ask for a first replacement product due to bad pixels, you should always get it, with no arguments and no restock charges (if this isn’t your first experience, ask to discuss it with a supervisor),” the report said. “However, if the replacement unit is still within spec — which for anything other than an iPhone or iPod touch, may mean more pixels depending on how bad the first unit was — a second replacement is ruled out.”

If you’ve seen this on your end or had a similar Apple retail experience, let us know.

New tests yield additional battery life in absence of Adobe Flash

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 04:40
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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It’s had a good run.

Hell, it’s had a great run.

Still, Apple has ceased bundling Adobe Flash on its new Macs, ostensibly so users could obtain the latest, secure version themselves with vastly increased battery life seems to be another leading reason for this change.

According to the mighty Ars Technica, the new MacBook Air can last for a full six hours after loading a series of webpages in Safari, but its battery performance drops down to four hours once Adobe Flash is installed and the same sites are loaded.

“Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary,” stated the article. Without the Flash plugin installed, websites typically display static ads in place of Flash content, erasing the need for constant processing power demanded by the Flash plugin’s rendering engine.

With Flash ads consuming as much as 33% of the MacBook Air’s battery potential, it’s no wonder why Apple has demonstrated no interest in getting a version of Flash installed on its iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, all of which have much smaller batteries.

This summer, Adobe launched a public relations attack on Apple for failing to support Flash on its iOS devices, nor allowing Adobe to deliver a version of Flash for the iOS platform, nor approving apps for the iOS that were created in Adobe’s Flash Professional application. Apple has backed away from refusing to approve apps created with third party tools, but has shown no interest in getting Flash content to run on its iOS.

When asked for “any updates” on the company’s stance on Flash during its quarterly earnings report, chief executive Steve Jobs quipped, “flash memory? We love flash memory,” before taking the next question.

Apple’s removal of Adobe’s Flash plugin from a default install on the new MacBook Air coincided with the company’s debut of a more conservative new “wireless productivity test” it said was more in line with actual use, and better standardized for accurate comparisons between models. Being able to test the new machine without its battery being taxed by Flash ads certainly helps the company achieve better results.

Microsoft stopped bundling Adobe Flash with the release of Windows Vista in 2007, although its motivation was likely due to the company’s efforts to push its rival Silverlight plugin. However, Windows implements Flash as an ActiveX control, which means users can click on Flash placeholders within a webpage and the Flash plugin will install itself. New Mac users will have to manually download and install Flash from Adobe in order to make it available.

Apple sells far more iOS-based devices (such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) than Macs, and no iOS devices support runtimes for Flash content. That has had a major effect upon advertisers, publishers, website design, and online video broadcasters, who have collectively made monumental shifts away from Flash. This in turn has made Flash playback far less important on the desktop than it was just a year or two ago, although there is still important content tied to Flash.

Apple has removed Flash content from its own website, although it also has supported Adobe’s efforts to add hardware acceleration to the Mac OS X version of Flash, and has approved the Skyfire plugin for iOS’ Mobile Safari, which uses a gateway service to translate Flash videos into HTML5 videos that can play on Apple’s devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype 5.0 beta for Mac now available

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Date: Friday, November 5th, 2010, 04:13
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Skype announced a public beta of its client for the Mac. Per Macworld, the new version brings Skype much more in line with its Windows counterpart in both features and interface.

First and foremost, the interface looks absolutely nothing like its predecessor, and entirely like its Windows counterpart, which got the 5.0 treatment in mid-October. Skype for Mac has shed the narrow-windowed “contact list” appearance—a staple of virtually every chat app on the market—in favor of an almost e-mail client approach. It’s a fairly minimal interface that feels all right (but not great) on the Mac.

A left sidebar contains contacts, groups, and a Recent list that displays the contacts you correspond with the most frequently. For the first time, Skype 5.0 for Mac lets you turn on full integration with Mac OS X’s Address Book from the preferences. This means you can finally call, SMS, or IM contacts without first having to go through the process of adding them to your Skype contact list. Users can also open the Contact Monitor, which offers a compact window that is more akin to the style of a thin buddy list that you can keep to the side of your work.

Beyond the major interface overhaul, the most significant new feature in Skype 5.0 for Mac is easily Group Video Calling (GVC), which first arrived in the Windows client last month. Skype 5.0’s group video chat looks somewhat like iChat’s, but unlike iChat, it supports up to ten members in a single chat (which requires that all parties have a minimum broadband connection of 4 mbps down and 1 mbps up). Skype chat is free to use while Skype 5.0 is in beta, but a paid plan will be required once the feature officially ships. There is no word yet from Skype on what GVC’s pricing will be or how it will fit into Skype’s existing price plans.

Skype 5.0 for Mac contains plenty of other new features, though it is still lacking at least one feature of its Windows sibling, albeit one that not everyone will miss: integration of the Facebook News Feed.

The Skype 5.0 for Mac beta can be snagged here and requires a Mac running OS X Leopard 10.5.8 and a 1GHz CPU or faster, though video calling requires at least a an Intel Core 2 Duo 1GHz CPU.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the beta and have any feedback, let us know in the comments.

PayPal addresses security hole via iPhone app update

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Date: Thursday, November 4th, 2010, 05:10
Category: iPhone, News, Software

If you’re in iTunes, this is one more reason to snag the updates for your iOS-based apps…

Per the Wall Street Journal, PayPal has released an update to its popular iPhone app. The fix came into place after the company had become aware of a significant security vulnerability in which the previous version reportedly failed to confirm the authenticity of PayPal’s website, leaving a loophole that could have been exploited to gain unauthorized access to users’ accounts.

Spokeswoman Amanda Pires claims the company verified the vulnerability on Tuesday night and rushed to release an update for the app. The company suggests no users have come forward with reports of fraudulent activity, although any affected users will receive 100% reimbursement.

“To my knowledge it has not affected anybody,” Pires told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve never had an issue with our app until now.”

The update app, PayPal 3.0.1, is now available as a free download from the App Store.

Cocktail 4.7.8 (Snow Leopard Edition) released

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Date: Thursday, November 4th, 2010, 04:01
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, shareware developer Maintain released version 4.7.8 of Cocktail (Snow Leopard Edition), Cocktail, the popular shareware utility program that allows for additional Mac OS X system tests. The new version, a 2 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

– Added ability to clear Koobface.A (Boonana.A) trojan.

– Added ability to clear Microsoft Office 2011 font caches.

– Minor bug fixes.

– Updated Automator actions.

Cocktail 4.7.8 retails for a US$14.95 shareware registration fee and requires Mac OS X 10.6.2 or later to install and run.

Target to begin selling iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 handsets and accessories on November 7th

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Date: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, 04:17
Category: iPhone, News, retail

It’s not the most exciting news in the world, but it’s useful in a pinch.

Per Engadget, the Minneapolis-based Target retail chain will begin offering Apple’s iPhone 3GS and black iPhone 4 handsets at various Target Mobile locations nestled within some 846 Targets across the country starting on November 7th.

Pricing for the handsets and accessories will be the same as everywhere else in the Apple/iPhone retail chain.

Still, it’s another place to buy an iPhone-based item if you need one in a pinch and that’s never a bad thing.

Apple releases iOS 4.2 golden master build to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010, 04:28
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

Late Monday, Apple released its golden master build of iOS 4.2 for its entire line of iOS-based devices including the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod touch.

Per AppleInsider, the new OS will sport features such as as AirPlay wireless streaming of audio, video and photos to the new Apple TV or other AirPlay-compliant devices and its AirPrint wireless printing architecture, designed to enable users to create hard copies of web pages, emails and photos managed through a new Print Center app.

The new update will also finally bring multitasking features and iOS Folders to the iPad, along with a variety of other features currently only available on the iPhone and iPod touch, such as support for multiple email aliases, a unified inbox, and messages organized by threads in Mail, and the ability to open attachments in third party apps.

New multitasking features will also incorporate the software orientation lock and music playback controls available on the iPhone running iOS 4, which are accessed via swiping to the left from the list of currently running apps. The iPad also presents a brightness control in this section (as depicted below).

The iPad will also lose its hardware toggle assigned to locking the screen orientation; the button will instead work to mute audio, just like the iPhone. This move has generated some controversy because Apple not only refuses to offer customers a choice of how their hardware buttons work, but has also duplicated mute functionality, as the audio down button already works as to rapidly mute audio playback.

The update will also bring Game Center to the iPad, allowing players to invite friends or find new opponents online to play against, as well as track their own achievements and high scores.

Apple has also outlined enhanced enterprise support features in iOS 4.2, including new device management capabilities, the ability to lock down email account settings, and stronger security enhancements.

iOS 4.2 will also include support for more than 30 new languages in keyboards and dictionaries, including Arabic, Greek and Hebrew.

It also strengthens accessibility features including support for navigating VoiceOver using a wireless keyboard and a wide range of refreshable braille output displays in more than 25 languages. On the iPad, larger text options up to 56 point fonts can also be specified for use in Contacts, Mail, Messages and Notes.

Other major changes include support for Google’s revised YouTube voting, a direct link to launching a FaceTime video call from within the SMS messages interface, and new CoreMIDI music APIs for music-related apps.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.