Apple offers popular apps at deep discounts, for free as App Store nears fifth anniversary on July 10th

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Date: Monday, July 8th, 2013, 06:54
Category: News, Software

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With the fifth anniversary of the iOS App Store approaching, a number of high-ranking apps will become free for a period of time.

According to The Verge, an unknown number of iOS apps are now free to download for both the iPhone and iPad, with titles spanning across genres and price ranges.

Games like Badland, Infinity Blade II, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, Tiny Wings, and Where’s My Water? are all complimentary, while other apps include Barefoot World Atlas, Day One, Over, and Traktor DJ for iPad. With the price slashing, users can save anywhere from US$0.99 to US$19.99.

While Apple has yet to make an official announcement regarding the free app selection, or collect them into a dedicated App Store section, it is thought that the move is in celebration of the digital storefront’s upcoming fifth anniversary on July 10.

The company sent out a poster last week detailing a timeline of major App Store milestones, including explosive growth that saw 1 billion downloads in 2009, 10 billion in 2011, and 50 billion this past May. Apple also noted that the store has generated more than US$10 billion for app developers to date.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve noticed a cool iOS app that’s free or discounted on the iOS App Store, please let us know in the comments.

iOS 7 developer beta incorporates password disable feature

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Date: Wednesday, June 26th, 2013, 07:00
Category: iOS, News, security, Software

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As mentioned before, it’s the beta versions that point out the cool stuff on the horizon.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s latest beta build of iOS 7 makes it more difficult for thieves to get away with stealing an iOS device by requiring a user’s password to be entered when disabling the “Find My iPhone” functionality.

The new feature, found in pre-release builds of iOS 7 made available to developers, also applies to the iPad. Users can open the Settings application, choose iCloud, then “Find My iPhone,” and flipping the switch to off brings up a password prompt.

The addition addresses a potential issue that users have noticed for years, since the “Find My iPhone” functionality came to iOS 4 in 2010. With iOS 7, users who may not feel the need to utilize the passcode lock screen can still enjoy added security for the Find My iPhone feature, making it more difficult for a thief to turn it off.

Of course, someone who has stolen an iPhone or iPad could simply turn off the device, or remove a SIM card. But the new feature is just an added level of security for those who may be unfortunate enough to have their device stolen.

Still, not a bad addition.

Please let us know what you think of this in the comments.

Apple receives patents for push-to-talk, double-sided touch panel features

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 11:30
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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If you’re hankering for new hardware features on a next-gen iPhone, the patent office is on your side.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently published 26 newly granted patents for Apple, and among them were the Cupertino company’s take on a push-to-talk feature and a double-sided touch-sensitive panel, both of which could possibly appear in future iPhones.

No current models of Apple’s bestselling iPhone support the Push-to-Talk (PTT) feature that many carriers have made available for years now. Users do have access to a number of apps in the iTunes App Store that can reproduce PTT, but U.S. Patent No. 8,447,341 indicates that Apple has at least considered integrating it into a model of its phone.

The patent notes that telecommunications networks exist that enable devices to directly access each other through a digital two-way radio feature.

Apple’s invention, though, describes “a method and system to provide push-to-talk from one user to another in a wireless packet data telecommunications network.” It includes a packet data network with at least one mobile station, a radio access network, a location server, registrar, database server, and PTT server that connects PTT users across the network.

Given the company’s secrecy about forthcoming products, it’s difficult to gauge how likely PTT is to show up in a future iPhone model. In 2010, the company was revealed to be exploring PTT capabilities, but such features haven’t emerged in any models to date.

The filing lists the patent as a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/028,086, filed on December 21, 2001. That patent application, entitled “Push-to-Talk Telecommunications System Utilizing a Voice-Over-IP Network,” was originally filed by Nortel Networks. The patent granted on Tuesday was likely a part of the portfolio Apple and other companies bought in 2011 for US$4.5 billion.

Included among the 26 patents granted on Tuesday is one for a “double-sided touch sensitive panel and flex circuit bonding.” The patent — U.S. Patent No. 8,446,386 — relates to the creation of a multi-touch sensor using a substrate with column and row traces on either side. The process bonds printed flex circuits to directly opposing attachment areas of a substrate.

The patent cites the desirability of keeping “the overall size of the sensor panel as small as possible” as a reason to “have two flex circuits connect to directly opposing sides of the sensor panel.” It’s therefore likely that this technology would go toward Apple’s continual push to make each of its devices thinner than the previous generation.

Other patents granted on Tuesday include ones for “gesture control of multimedia editing applications,” “methods and apparatus for decreasing power consumption and bus activity,” “techniques for versioning file systems,” “technique for visually compositing a group of graphical objects,” a “system for optimizing graphics operations,” and a “touch pad for handheld device.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Blockbuster releases On Demand app for iOS devices

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Date: Friday, May 3rd, 2013, 07:43
Category: iOS, News, Software

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Maybe there’s some life in the ol’ girl we call “Blockbuster” after all…

Per AppleInsider, Dish Network released Blockbuster On Demand for iOS, an Apple device-ready version of the app that has been available on Android, PC, Mac, TVs and set-top boxes since January.

After filing for bankruptcy in 2010 and being acquired by Dish in 2011, Blockbuster launched a streaming on demand service in 2012, but until today had not offered an app for Apple’s iOS device lineup.

Working in much the same way as the company’s services on other platforms, Blockbuster On Demand streams “thousands” of movies in HD and full surround sound to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Users can watch selections instantly, or save them to a Watchlist for later viewing. There is also an option to filter movies based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings

Unlike competitors like Netflix, which require monthly subscriptions, Blockbuster’s service is based on a per-view model pricing model with no late fees.

Blockbuster On Demand is free to download, with movie rental prices pegged at US$2.99 and US$4.99. The app is available for free and requires iOS 4.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the Blockbuster On Demand app or service and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

CrossOver updated to 12.1.2

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Date: Monday, March 4th, 2013, 07:47
Category: News, Software

You can’t knock a decent update.

CrossOver, the popular virtualization program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 12.1.2. The new version, a 76 megabyte download, is available as a demo, offers the following fixes and changes:
- Fixed a bug which caused Steam to get stuck in a loop while trying to update.

- Fixed a bug which caused performance to suffer badly in Skyrim, and possibly some other games, on certain Linux systems.

- Fixed a bug which caused Outlook 2010 to fail to open .xlsx, .pptx, and .docx attachments.

- Fixed a bug which caused Quicken to fail to connect to Chase Bank online.
Office 2007 and 2010 will now display help topics!

Mac OS X:
- We have improvements to windowing in the Mac Driver.

- We are hopeful that changes in this version of CrossOver will mean that gaming performance will improve when Apple releases its upcoming OS X 10.8.3.

CrossOver 12.1.2 retails for US$59.95 and requires Mac OS X 10.6 and or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

Apple job postings, logs hint towards Siri integration in upcoming OS X 10.9 operating system, iLife, iWork suites

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Date: Thursday, February 7th, 2013, 08:06
Category: News, Siri, Software

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Sometimes it’s the job postings that give the future away.

Per MacRumors, builds of Apple’s upcoming OS X 10.9 have been appearing in site logs since November, the logs hinting at possible Siri integration into the operating system.

A recent Apple job posting reinforces the rumor that Siri might be bundled with the next version of OS X. In its listing for a Siri UI Engineer, Apple specifies that candidates should possess “Familiarity with Unix, especially Mac OS X” and a “Passion for the Macintosh platform and writing simple, elegant software that is easy and fun to use.”

The listing, which does not include a specification for experience with iOS aside from knowledge of Apple’s development APIs, states that the engineer will be in charge of implementing the content that appears within Siri’s conversational view. The position will also require collaboration with other Siri teams.

To quote the posting:
“This is a broad-ranging task – we take every application that Siri interacts with, distill it down to fundamentals, and implement that application’s UI in a theme fitting with Siri. Consider it an entire miniature OS within the OS, and you get a good idea of the scope!

Of course, each of these little “snippets” corresponds to an individual application, so you will have extensive cross-functional work with many other teams. You’ll need to work with them to enable access to their data and behaviors, and wire them up to your implementations. As a result, strong API design is needed to keep communications ideal.”

As of mid-January, OS X 10.9 activity has increased considerably, suggesting the new operating system, with Siri included, may be imminent.

Job postings for Apple’s iLife/iWork team also surfaced this week. iWork’s last major update was in 2009, while iLife was last updated in 2010. An overhaul of the apps could potentially include Siri integration, allowing for voice commands for simple tasks such as photo and music editing.

Apple has been upgrading OS X on a yearly basis. 10.8 Mountain Lion was released in July of 2012, a year after 10.7 Lion was released in July of 2011. The first developer preview of OS X 10.8 appeared in February, and OS X 10.9 could follow a similar timeline.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple quietly disables Oracle’s Java 7 Update 11 fix via XProtect anti-malware feature in OS X

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Date: Thursday, January 31st, 2013, 08:19
Category: News, security, Software

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When it comes to Java, there’s always an argument to be had between Apple and Oracle.

Per MacGeneration, the recently released Java 7 Update 11 has been blocked by Apple through its XProtect anti-malware feature in OS X.

Oracle issued the latest update to Java earlier this month to fix a serious zero-day security flaw. The threat was so serious that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had recommended that all Java 7 users disable or uninstall the software until a patch was issued.

Apple took action on its own and quietly disabled the plugin through its OS X anti-malware system. As noted by the article, Apple has again updated its OS X XProtect list, this time to block Java 7 Update 11.

Because Oracle has yet to issue a newer version of Java that addresses any outstanding issues, Mac users are prevented from running Java on their system.

Over the last few years, Apple has moved to gradually remove Java from OS X. The company dropped the Java runtime from the default installation for OS X 10.7 Lion when the operating system update launched in 2010. Java vulnerabilities have been a common exploit used by malicious hackers looking to exploit the OS X platform.

Most notably, the “Flashback” trojan that spread last year was said to have infected as many as 600,000 Macs worldwide at its peak. Apple addressed the issue by releasing a removal tool specifically tailored for the malware, and also disabled the Java runtime in its Safari web browser starting with version 5.1.7.

Apple secures 48 assorted patents, including inductive charging, integrating portable electronics with bicycles

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Date: Wednesday, January 30th, 2013, 08:44
Category: News, Patents

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It never hurts to have a patent for something.

Much less 48 of ‘em.

Per AppleInsider , the United States Patent and Trademark office published 48 newly granted Apple patents on Tuesday, covering technologies ranging from inductive charging to bike-integrated iPods, as well as one property covering the touchscreen technology that enables the latest iOS devices to achieve their current slimness.

The patents granted on Wednesday involve components and design elements for virtually all of Apple’s product offerings.

Inductive charging using printed coils:
This patent, filed for in June of 2012, describes systems “for harnessing power through electromagnetic induction utilizing printed coils.” Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,362,751 calls for one or more moveable magnets that, when traveling along the path of the printed coils, can power a device.

The technology is akin to shake-to-charge flashlights that use induction to produce electric current which is stored in capacitors for later use. This type of system eschews the need for bulky batteries that must be plugged in for charging or replaced when depleted.

A similar technology is used in rival devices — including the Google-LG-produced Nexus 4 and Nokia’s Lumia line of Windows Phone 8 handsets — which integrate inductive charging systems that use a wall charger to recharge built-in batteries, thus doing away with pesky electrical cords. Apple has yet to bring a competing technology to market. Prior to the release of the iPhone 5, rumors circulated that Apple would bring wireless charging to bear in that handset, but Apple marketing exec Phil Schiller said after the unveiling that the perceived convenience of such systems was questionable, since charging mats would still need to be plugged into an outlet.

In September, an Apple patent application emerged demonstrating a “realistic and practical approach to wireless power, providing over-the-air electricity to low-power devices within a distance of one meter.

Integrated touchscreen:
Apple also was granted a patent on a design for “displays with touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup.” This is a continuation of the in-cell touchscreen patent, granted in July of 2012, which made an appearance in the iPhone 5. The in-cell touch panel technology allows Apple to make its devices noticeably thinner, but initial yield rates for the panels were problematic, and Apple is said to be evaluating a newer technology using “touch-on” displays, averting some of the problems that came with in-cell touch panels.

Notably, the patent granted today gives a mobile phone, a media player, and a notebook computer as examples of where the technology could be implemented. Tim Cook famously dismissed touch-enabled PC form factors, saying they were like “[converging] a toaster and a refrigerator.”

Integrating a portable electronic device with a bicycle:
Also among the patents Apple secured today was a design for interfacing an electronic device with a bicycle. In the filing, the device receives output from sensors coupled to the bicycle, displaying riding characteristics and even communicating with other devices in order to allow cyclists to ride as a team and assist each other.

The application for the patent originally emerged in 2010. Technology such as that seen in the patent has yet to materialize in any Apple products, but it is in keeping with other fitness-related offerings, such as the Nike+ compatibility seen in iPods and iPhones.

Tuesday’s patent haul covers many other technologies, including motion-based payment confirmation, beamforming antenna systems, device cooling mechanisms, and more. Among companies worldwide, Apple in 2012 ranked 21st for the total number of patents granted in 2012. Last year saw the Cupertino company granted 1,135 patents, just behind Google, which secured 1,151 patents.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Wireless handset unlocking becomes illegal in U.S. without carrier permission

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Date: Monday, January 28th, 2013, 08:45
Category: iPhone, Legal, wireless

Well, here’s the thing that’ll drive you nuts today.

Per Electronista and TechCrunch, phone unlocking without carrier permission is now illegal in the United States. A 90-day transition period, permitting the practice after an exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was reversed in October, has now run out. The expiration of the exemption now forces customers to either ask and potentially pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand.

The exemption was put in place after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2010. Three exemptions were applied for, including making jailbreaking legal and the renewal of an existing exemption that permitted phone unlocking. In October, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress reviewed and then overturned the unlocking exemption, citing the relative ease for consumers to either get an unlocked handset or to unlock a phone through a carrier. A 90-day transition period was then put in place, which has since ran out.

Penalties for unlocking, as outlined by CTIA, range from the carrier’s “actual damages and any additional profits of the violator”, to a court-awarded statutory damages of between US$200 and US$2500 per individual unlock, on the Civil Penalties side. Criminal penalties would see violators fined at most US$500,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both, for a first offense, with the values doubled for subsequent offenses.

In light of the unlocking exemption’s closure, a “We The People” petition asking for the Librarian of Congress to rescind the decision or to make unlocking permanently legal, has gathered over 25,000 signatures.

Jailbreaking and rooting of smartphones continues to be legal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

CrossOver updated to 12.1

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Date: Thursday, January 24th, 2013, 08:09
Category: News, Software

CrossOver, the popular virtualization program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 12.1. The new version, a 75.7 megabyte download, is available as a demo, offers the following fixes and changes:

WHAT’S NEW:
- We have fixed a bug where certain users who chose “Register for all users of this computer” during CrossOver’s registration would receive an error claiming their bottle had “expired” and could not be used, despite the user having a valid CrossOver license.

- We have added a preference setting allowing the user to control what CrossOver does with an unknown Windows .exe file when it is launched. Using this preference, the user can tell CrossOver either to treat the unknown .exe file as an application installer, or to simply run it.

- CrossOver will now auto-update CrossTie files if the user has permitted auto-updates of CrossOver itself via Sparkle.

- Fixed a bug where automatic updates via Sparkle would fail for some users on Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard.

- Fixed a bug which caused several games to fail when running in fullscreen mode.

- Games which should be improved include StarCraft, Fallout, and, we hope, many others.

- Fixed a bug which prevented some users from logging into World of Tanks servers.

- CrossOver no longer ships Wine-Mono, an open-source replacement for .Net, by default. We had started doing this for CrossOver 12 but the large increase in download size and disk space usage proved too much. CrossOver can still download and install Wine-Mono as-needed.

- We have fixed a bug which caused CrossOver to print unnecessary error messages when launching Windows applications, complaining that certain icon files could not be found.

- New translations for Polish & Chinese (China), and a partial translation for Italian.

Application Support:
- Fixed connection errors with Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 when connecting to hosted Exchange servers.

- Fixed a bug which caused adding a table of contents to a Microsoft Word document to fail.

- Fixed an issue where Quicken failed to download WebConnect and QFX files.

- Fixed an issue where Quicken crashed viewing investment details.

- Fixed an issue where Quicken crashed when expanding columns in reports.

- Fixed a bug which caused clicking on a promotional offer in Quicken to crash.

- Fixed some connection failures with Quicken 2011.

- Fixed an issue where rotated text was garbled in PowerPoint 2010.

- Fixed a bug selecting shapes in Visio 2010.

- Fixed a crash on launch in HCFA-1500.

CrossOver 12.1 retails for US$59.95 and requires Mac OS X 10.6 and or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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