WebKit adds support for Retina-quality images, changes to be made to HTML5

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Date: Thursday, August 15th, 2013, 06:36
Category: iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, News, Software

The images on the Web are about to get snazzier looking.

Per webkit.org, WebKit, the Apple-supported open source project behind Safari, is the first browser layout engine to support a new Web standard that makes it easier for developers to take advantage of high-resolution displays, like the Retina panels found in the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro.

The new standard, an addition to the HTML5 specification called “srcset,” provides developers with an easy way to serve users different image versions based on the resolution of their device. For example, a website may serve larger, higher quality images to visitors browsing on a Retina MacBook Pro while sending smaller, lower quality images to visitors on a MacBook Air.

Websites and Web-based applications have been slow to provide support for Retina displays since the screens first appeared on the iPhone 4 in 2010. Current methods for implementation are suboptimal – they can be cumbersome for developers, degrade the user experience, or lack cross-browser support.

Using srcset, developers can specify multiple variations of an image with a single declaration, and it is designed for compatibility with older systems. Browsers that do not support srcset will simply ignore it without any adverse affect on the user.

The syntax is similar to Apple’s iOS conventions for Retina-ready graphics: developers simply provide an alternate filename and a resolution multiplier, e.g. 1x, 2x, or 4x. The “resolution multiplier” is a measure of how many physical pixels make up one display pixel; for example, the iPhone 5 has a physical resolution of 1,136-by-640 pixels, but a display resolution of 568-by-320 pixels. This means there are 4 physical pixels for each display pixel, or a 4x multiplier.

The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, the international organization that defines and administers the open standards that underpin the Web, added srcset to the HTML5 specification in May 2012.

A similar feature, called “-webkit-image-set,” was added to WebKit and shipped with Safari 6 and Google’s Chrome 21 in October of the same year. The asset never achieved widespread adoption, however, as it was not implemented in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox, which together commanded more than 50% of the international browser market at the time.

WebKit is the first browser engine to announce support for srcset, and the feature is likely to ship in Safari 7 with OS X Mavericks.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen low cost iPhone may not include Siri, could replace iPhone 4 as base model

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Date: Tuesday, August 13th, 2013, 07:37
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The plastic low-cost iPhone may become Apple’s new overall base model.

Per AppleInsider, in a research note issued to investors on Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicts Apple may scale back iOS 7 on a rumored low-cost iPhone, possibly hobbling the handset by deactivating features like Siri.

Recognizing recent rumors of a Sept. 10 iPhone announcement, Munster took the chance to update investors on his Apple product pipeline predictions for the rest of the year and into 2014.

The analyst’s expectations for the next-generation iPhone, dubbed by many as the “iPhone 5S,” are very much in line with rumors and reports coming from a multitude of sources. Aside from incorporating a fingerprint sensor into the home button, which Munster believes will be limited to user authentication, the 5S will feature the usual “S-series” component upgrades. These include increased processor performance, extended battery life, more memory, and other spec bumps.

While his iPhone 5S outlook is in line with mainstream rumblings, Munster’s thoughts on the rumored less-expensive “iPhone 5C” are a bit unconventional. Like others, he predicts the 5C will have a plastic casing, 4-inch display and slightly lower end internal components than the iPhone 5S. However, the analyst believes Apple will exclude software features when the handset launches, specifically the Siri voice recognizing virtual assistant.

Curiously, Munster cites the lack of Siri on the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 in his iPhone 5C prediction, but fails to mention the service was never part of iOS until Apple incorporated the feature in the iPhone 4S. Apple purchased Siri, which was formerly an iOS app, in April 2010, ultimately baking the technology into iOS 5 over a year later.

Siri was never officially activated on the iPhone 4 or earlier models, though a jailbreak proved the service could run on older hardware. It is thought that special noise cancellation tech implemented in certain A5 processors, used in the iPhone 4S, iPad mini and fifth-generation iPod touch, is needed for Siri to work optimally. Even with the latest iOS 6, Siri is still absent in the iPhone 4 and below.

As for Apple’s low-end handset offerings, Munster believes “it may make sense” for the company to discontinue the iPhone 4S product line instead of carrying the model over as a free-on-contract device. This would bring parity to the lineup, the analyst says, with the iPhone 5S, current iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C all sporting similar designs and screen sizes.

In this configuration, Munster sees the iPhone 5C as selling for an estimated US$300.

Finally, Munster agrees with the September iPhone event rumor, and sees October as a likely launch timeframe for both a new iPad and iPad mini. Further out, he predicts Apple to debut a new TV product before the end of 2013, while a larger-screened iPhone and so-called “iWatch” should hit store shelves by mid-2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to hold iPhone media event on September 10th

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Date: Monday, August 12th, 2013, 07:40
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

The next-gen Apple iPhone may have a media event date.

Per All Things Digital and AppleInsider, unnamed sources have indicated that Apple is looking to hold a media event for the long-anticipated iPhone model on September 10th. That date would occur on the second to the last day of the IFA consumer electronics trade show being held in Berlin, Germany from September 6-11. Samsung is expected to announce its Galaxy Note 3 at the show, and HTC may release its own “One Max” phablet.

The event is expected to officially release the redesigned new iOS 7, which Apple says will support the existing iPhone 4 or later and iPad 2 or later models now being sold, as well as the 5th generation or newer iPod touch.

Apple is expected release an enhanced new iPhone 5S with a similar form factor to the existing iPhone 5.

The new iPhone 5S is expected to introduce enhanced new features thought to include a camera with potentially a dual LED, a faster processor, and potentially the fingerprint sensor technology it acquired with AuthenTec.

Apple is also rumored to potentially release a new iPhone 5C aimed at entry level users, sporting cases in multiple colors and a lower price targeting first time smartphone buyers.

Leaked schematics that appeared in June depicted a new low-cost iPhone model that would be a hair wider and taller than the iPhone 5S.

The documents also suggested that the new low-cost iPhone will be about 0.8 millimeters thicker than the iPhone 4S, with back edges that are rounded off, similar to the iPod classic.

Apple is also expected to capitalize on the continuing, strong performance of iPhone 4, which is now nearly three years old. A revamped iPhone 5C, also referenced in rumors as an “iPhone Lite,” could provide Apple with a more modern but still entry level priced device with support for features introduced after the iPhone 4 was developed in 2010.

In Apple’s most recent conference call, its chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer stated that “iPhone 5 remains by far the most popular iPhone, but we were also very happy with sales of iPhone 4 and 4S,” later adding that “iPhone 4 sales accelerated as we offered more affordable pricing in emerging and in other markets.””The number of first time smartphone buyers that the iPhone 4 is attracting is very, very impressive.”

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook referenced lower iPhone 4 pricing as a significant factor in the “unusual” growth in iPhone sales in the June quarter, noting that “with the moves that we made on [iPhone] 4 and with iPhone 5 continuing to be the most popular model, we saw very strong sales in several of the emerging markets, sort of pre-pay markets.”

Cook later added that “what we’ve seen is that the number of first time smartphone buyers that the iPhone 4 is attracting is very, very impressive. We want to attract as many of these buyers as we can and we saw that beginning to happen toward the end of the Q2 timeframe, as I’d referenced on last quarter’s call, and we did that on a wider spread basis, offered more affordable pricing on a wider scale basis this quarter, and continue to be very happy with what we saw.

“Where iPhone 5 continues to be the most popular iPhone by far, we’re really happy to provide an incredible high quality product with iPhone 4 running iOS 6 to as many first-time smartphone buyers as we can, and I think it’s proven to be exactly a great product for that buyer.”

Stay tuned for additional details about the upcoming media event as they become available.

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.