“Dockster” trojan for the Mac goes into the wild, plays on the same Java vulnerability as “Flashback”

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Date: Tuesday, December 4th, 2012, 08:57
Category: News, security, Software

Ok, this shouldn’t be happening again.

Per F-Secure, a new piece of malware that takes advantage of a well-documented Java vulnerability has been found on a website dedicated to the Dalai Lama, with the trojan able to install itself on an unwitting Mac user’s computer to capture keystrokes and other sensitive data.

Dubbed “Dockster,” the malware was first found by antivirus and security firm Intego to have been uploaded to the VirusTotal detection service on Nov. 30. At the time of its discovery, the remote address associated with trojan was not active, possibly indicating that the code’s creators were testing whether it would be detected, but as of this writing the malicious code is now “in the wild.”

Similar to the Flashback exploit from September 2011, Dockster leverages the same Java vulnerability to drop the backdoor onto a Mac, which then executes code to create an agent that feeds keylogs and other sensitive information to an off-site server.

In the case of Flashback, which was also discovered by Intego, a reported 600,000 Macs were affected before both Apple and Oracle released a Java patches to remove the malware and protect against future attacks.

Although the newly-found Dockster takes advantage of an already fixed weakness, users who haven’t yet updated their Macs or are running older software may still be at risk.

In which case, try to ensure that your friends and family with older, pre-OS X 10.6 software are up to date and be careful out there.

Apple patent shows interest in developing dual-function headphones

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Date: Thursday, November 8th, 2012, 08:28
Category: News, Patents

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This could get really interesting.

Per AppleInsider, a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday shows that Apple presented an invention for a “dual-mode headphone” which can transform from a normal set of earbuds to a more robust speaker system.

First filed for in 2011, the proposed system incorporates the usual in-ear headphone arrangement with specialized position-sensing circuitry and a power amplifier, allowing a user to dynamically switch from personal listening mode to speaker mode.

From the application’s background:
“Users typically listen to content on their portable devices using headphones, although there are speakers available that can be connected to the portable devices to enable multiple users to listen in at the same time. This approach, however, may require a user to carry both a headphone and speakers, or may require the user to rely on speakers built into the device, which may not be as powerful or have as high a sound quality as external speakers.

In operation, the headphones can detect its position and output sound in “headphone mode,” where the amplifier is bypassed, or “speaker mode,” which passes the audio signal through said amplifier. To prevent a user from being harmed by inadvertently activating the speaker mode while wearing the headphones, a separate sensor can be employed to detect when the unit is near a user’s ears.

Any number of sensors can be implemented in the invention, including IR sensors, ambient light sensors, Hall effect sensors, and others. In one embodiment, a sensor that can detect contact with a user’s ears is integrated into the headphone to prevent hearing damage.

In addition to automatically detecting positioning, users can manually activate speaker mode with physical buttons. An articulating arm or other design component can also be used to prop the headphones up when in speaker mode. ”

Finally, one embodiment describes an implementation that allows the headphone to be used as an in-ear set as well as a speaker by positioning extra ports directed away from the user’s ears.

As with many patent applications, the fate of the dual-mode headphone remains uncertain, though Apple’s new EarPods illustrated the company is still researching new design techniques for its audio products.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple extends warranty for 2009 iMac, cites known hard drive issue

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Date: Monday, October 15th, 2012, 06:39
Category: hard drive, Hardware, iMac, News

There’s nothing like a quiet warranty extension to put your mind at ease.

Per MacRumors, Apple on Friday quietly extended its iMac 1TB Seagate Hard Drive Replacement Program coverage back two years to include models sold from October 2009, effectively adding almost two years to the initiative which previously included machines sold between May and June of 2011.

News of the extension was posted to Apple’s Support webpage sometime on Friday, which noted email notifications were being sent to affected iMac owners who took the time to register their products. Users can also check the program’s webpage to confirm eligibility.

From the announcement:

Apple has determined that certain Seagate 1TB hard drives used in 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMac systems may fail. These systems were sold between October 2009 and July 2011.

iMac owners who were affected by the Seagate-specific failure can have their hard drives replaced for free from Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or those who have already paid for repair or replacement can contact Apple for a possible refund.

First initiated in July 2011, the recall originally ran through July 23, 2012 and covered iMacs sold between May 2011 and July 2011. The program was subsequently extended for an additional year. With Friday’s announcement, the replacement plan has been broadened again, and now covers affected iMacs for three years after the first retail sale of the unit or until April 12, 2013, whichever provides longer coverage.

Seagate’s storage components were at the center of another fiasco in 2007, when Apple acknowledged that a number of MacBook and MacBook Pros shipped with faulty hard drives. An apparent manufacturing flaw caused the drive head of some units to permanently fail, scratching the disk patter and causing permanent data loss.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked “iPad mini” display case instructions hint at smaller iPad for holiday season

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Date: Thursday, October 11th, 2012, 08:05
Category: iPad, Rumor

If it’s not the suppliers that offer interesting hints as to upcoming products, it’s the retailers.

Per AppleInsider, one retailer is preparing in advance for the rumored device by sending out in-store displays to sell accessories to customers.

A leaked image shows instructions for standalone displays designed to sell iPad mini accessories. The instruction manual comes from a large box that apparently includes parts from which the future displays will be assembled.

The tipster indicated that the pages labeled “Amazon/Apple Tablet Display Parts List” came from a box with a note attached, telling employees not to look inside. They said the papers fell out of the box, revealing the contents of the recently delivered package.

Exactly what store the display parts were shipped to was not provided, but the design shown in the illustration looks similar to in-store displays seen at major retailers such as Best Buy or Target.

The shipment comes after a list of dozens of supposed “iPad mini” cases were revealed in a spreadsheet on Wednesday. That list of products suggested that third-party accessory makers Belkin, Kensington and Trust all have cases for Apple’s smaller iPad ready to go.

The fact that the name “iPad Mini” is included on the design of the accessory display should not be taken as a confirmation that it will be the final name of the rumored product. Because the name of the iPhone 5 was not known as case-makers built accessories based on leaked schematics, many cases available for sale at launch came in boxes that simply advertised they were for the “New iPhone.”

Case makers have bet — and lost — on rumored Apple product designs before. In 2011, some third-party accessory makers banked on a completely redesigned look for Apple’s next iPhone, but that October the iPhone 4S debuted with a design nearly identical to its predecessor, the iPhone 4.

Similarly, one report this week claimed that a major accessory maker had halted production of cases designed for the so-called “iPad mini”. Manufacturing of those cases was reportedly stopped because of an apparent “design change” that caught the manufacturer-off guard.

Apple is expected to hold an event later this month to officially unveil a smaller iPad with a 7.85-inch display. The company is said to have ordered more than 10 million units for sale this holiday shopping season.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mac mini inventories begin to dwindle, could signal next-gen Ivy Bridge model

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Date: Tuesday, October 9th, 2012, 07:46
Category: Hardware, Mac mini, News

You love your Mac mini.

And you’re fond of the Ivy Bridge hardware architecture.

It’s time the two came together to form something nifty.

Per AppleInsider, numerous sellers are currently out of stock of the Mac mini. Specifically, for the 2.3-gigahertz model, stock-outs are seen at Amazon, MacConnection, and J&R, while the 2.5-gigahertz option is unavailable at Amazon, MacMall, MacConnection and J&R.

Supplies of the Mac mini Server with a 2-gigahertz Core i7 processor is also running dry, as Amazon advertised as of Monday that it only has a few units left in stock, while MacMall and MacConnection are currently sold out.

In addition, Macerkopf.de noted on Monday that supply of the Mac mini has also begun to run dry in Germany. Apple typically winds down its inventory ahead of a new product launch, and limited supply at third-party resellers is often one of the first signs that a hardware refresh is forthcoming.

However, supply fluctuations are not always a sign that a hardware refresh is imminent. For example, Apple’s iMac has seen its availability remain constrained off and on since July, but the all-in-one desktop has not yet been updated.

An updated Mac mini was not listed by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo among the eight new products Apple is rumored to launch this fall. However, he did indicate that Apple is planning to debut a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, as well as redesigned 21.5- and 27-inch iMacs.

Apple last updated the Mac mini in July of 2011, adding support for the high-speed Thunderbolt port while ditching the built-in optical disc drive that had been found on previous models. The current Mac mini lineup starts at US$599 and features Intel’s previous-generation Sandy Bridge processors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Two new patents show Apple looking into “shake to print” technology for iOS devices

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Date: Friday, October 5th, 2012, 07:02
Category: News, Patents, Software

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This could lead to something interesting.

Per FreePatentsOnline and AppleInsider, a pair of new patent filings reveal a concept from Apple that would allow users to select custom settings for printing by moving or interacting with an iPhone or iPad in unique ways.

The patents, entitled Systems and Methods for Defining Print Settings Using Device Movements, and Systems and Methods for Defining Print Settings Using an Input Interface, respectively, describe a system in which a user could shake their iPhone back and forth to enable a print settings mode. In another implementation, a user could shake their iPad to cancel a print job.

Apple already has a system-wide “Shake to Undo” feature in iOS that uses a device’s built-in accelerometer. The company also offers “Shake to Shuffle” when playing music.

With Apple’s new concept, users could also change settings — such as print orientation — by rotating or moving an iOS device. For example, viewing a photo in portrait mode could then send the picture to a printer with the same layout.

The patent application also goes beyond motion and orientation of the device, and presents new ways that users could interact with an iPad to select printer settings. One illustration shows how users could select a range of pages to print from a document, while a template selector would show a user how their content would appear on various paper sizes.

When viewing multiple pages of a document at once on a touchscreen device, a user could also use their finger to draw across the pages and signify an order in which the pages should be printed.

The applications, made public this week, were first filed with the USPTO in March of 2011. The proposed inventions are credited to Howard A. Miller, David Gelphman, and Richard Blanchard Jr.

Apple assembles audio/video homage to Steve Jobs to celebrate former CEO’s passing

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Date: Friday, October 5th, 2012, 06:45
Category: News

If you have a chance, head on over to www.apple.com today.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has assembled its homage to co-founder Steve Jobs, who passed away one year ago today as well as a letter from CEO Tim Cook.

Users who visit the web site are greeted with a blank white website that simply plays the video, which features black-and-white pictures of Jobs, along with audio clips from some of his greatest speeches and presentations.

The video concludes with the title “Remembering Steve,” and the dates marking his birth and death. After it concludes, navigation links to the remainder of the company’s website fade in to view, along with a note from Cook, Apple’s chief executive.

Cook’s full letter is included below:

A message from Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

Steve’s passing one year ago today was a sad and difficult time for all of us. I hope that today everyone will reflect on his extraordinary life and the many ways he made the world a better place.

One of the greatest gifts Steve gave to the world is Apple. No company has ever inspired such creativity or set such high standards for itself. Our values originated from Steve and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple. We share the great privilege and responsibility of carrying his legacy into the future.

I’m incredibly proud of the work we are doing, delivering products that our customers love and dreaming up new ones that will delight them down the road. It’s a wonderful tribute to Steve’s memory and everything he stood for.

Tim

It was exactly one year ago, on Oct. 5, 2011, that Jobs passed away at the age of 56 after a long bout with cancer. He died peacefully at his home, surrounded by his family.

Apple exploring wireless headphone technology for “active” users

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Date: Thursday, October 4th, 2012, 07:22
Category: Hardware, News, Patents

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The wireless headphones you’ve been dreaming of…they could be en route.

And if wireless headphones are the biggest concern in your life, that’s saying something.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday reveals Apple is investigating a unique set of headphones, designed to withstand the rigors of athletic activity by eliminating the need for cumbersome cords.

The invention, titled “Detachable wireless listening device,” describes headphones designed to free listeners from the burden of wires by leveraging wireless transmission technology, such as Bluetooth.

Apple notes that, while inexpensive and efficient, common wired headsets like earbuds are “susceptible to becoming entangled while the end user is participating in physical activity.” The situation can be “particularly nettlesome” since the cord is somewhat firmly affixed to the portable media player by a 3.5mm plug, which can be a potential hazard to both the device and its user.

To solve the ever-present trouble of wired connections, Apple suggests a type of hybrid system that can receive audio data through a cable as with traditional earbuds, but can also be detached from the device and operate wirelessly when needed.

The clever “listening device” is connected to the player by either a physical clip or detent, or a series of magnets. When attached, the headphones are able to use the cord as an RF antenna with data being processed by the host device, and a means of power for charging a set of built-in batteries. While connected, the headphones receive audio signals through the cable and are able to tap into the media player’s power supply if needed, thus saving precious energy for untethered use.

If the headphones becomes detached, either by the user or unintentionally, the host device seamlessly pauses the charging process, activates a wireless module and begins to send audio over Bluetooth of some other form of radio communication. The patent notes that stereo audio can be provided to the wireless headset by assigning each side, right and left, a unique wireless address.

Apple cofounder Steve Jobs famously said in 2005 that Bluetooth was simply not suitable for headphones because the bandwidth was too low for high quality sound reproduction, and people are loathe to charge both an iPod or iPhone as well as a peripheral.

That was arguably true seven years ago, however the advent of low-power Bluetooth 4.0 components, combined with Thursday’s unique hybrid headphone invention, could one day lead to the level of technology Jobs was waiting for.

The “listening device” patent was filed in March 2011 with Jorge S. Fino credited as its inventor.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft releases Office 2011 14.2.4, Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.4 updates for Mac

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Date: Thursday, September 20th, 2012, 07:24
Category: News, Software

On Wednesday, Microsoft released its Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.4 update. The update, a 116 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- Office 2011 for Mac now supports retina rendering on Mac computers that are equipped with a Retina display.

Improvements for Outlook for Mac 2011:
- This update adds the ability for reminders of calendar events to be displayed for all calendars in Outlook. Previously, reminders were only displayed for calendar events in the default account’s calendar. Reminders are now displayed for other calendars, and this includes local On My Computer calendars. This update adds the ability to select a default text encoding for composing new messages.

- The encoding that is selected in composing preferences will be applied to all new messages that are sent from Mac Outlook. To access composing preferences, select Outlook, select Preferences, and then select Composing. The new preference is Preferred encoding for new messages.

- This update changes the HTML syntax of new signatures to be compatible with Mountain Lion and the latest version of WebKit. Email signatures in HTML-formatted email messages may not be displayed in the intended color when the messages are viewed in Mountain Lion or in previous OS versions that were upgraded to the latest version of WebKit. Existing signatures that exhibit this problem must be deleted and recreated to resolve the problem.

- This update improves Mac Outlook’s handling of partially downloaded messages. It is now possible to delete or move partially downloaded Exchange messages within the same account.

- This update fixes an issue in which Mac Outlook would crash when it moved certain messages to On My Computer folders by using client-side rules.

- This update fixes an issue in which the last entry from search results in the Select User dialog box was chosen even when another entry was selected. Distribution lists that are selected from search results in the Select User dialog box are chosen correctly. This issue was related to searching and selecting distribution lists only.

- This update resolves an issue that prevented Mac Outlook from downloading mail, calendar, or contact items that contained certain nonprintable characters.

- This update fixes an issue in Mac Outlook with delegated access to email. In certain cases, the email address of the primary user would be added incorrectly to the “Me” contact of the delegate.
This update resolves the issue in which, in some cases, searching in Mac Outlook by using a date filter returned the wrong results.

- This update fixes an issue in Mac Outlook that affected certain messages that were originally imported from PST files. If such messages were copied into an Exchange account, certain messages would not be readable on Outlook Web Access or other Exchange mail clients.

Microsoft Office 14.2.4 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and for the Service Pack 1 updater to have been previously installed.

The company also released version 12.3.4 of its Microsoft Office 2008 suite for Mac. The update, a 229 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and features:

- Contains changes that improve stability, reliability, and performance.

- Fixes an issue that may cause Excel 2008 for Mac to crash when you click Insert Object and then click to select the Display as icon check box in the Insert Object dialog box.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.4 requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have anything to report back, let us know.

Apple to cover international LTE standards via three hardware variants

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 08:31
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

The iPhone 5 is en route.

And it looks like a nifty feat of engineering.

With the variety of different LTE frequency bands used by various carriers available globally, Apple will be making three versions of iPhone 5, with the potential for additional new models as Apple signs on other carriers according to AppleInsider.



Apple built a single, global model of the iPhone up until the beginning of 2011, when it introduced a CDMA-only iPhone 4 version compatible with Verizon. When it introduced iPhone 4S a year ago, Apple incorporated support for both GSM and CDMA networks, resulting in a “world phone,” albeit still locked by specific carriers.

The new iPhone 5 now comes in three LTE versions, all of which continue to support the global GSM/UMTS services of iPhone 4S (Quad Band 2G GSM/EDGE on 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, and Quad Band 3G UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA on 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) with new support for “4G” DC-HSDPA (which at up to 42Mbps is as fast as most carriers’ 4G LTE service). Only one of the three versions continues to support CDMA.

To cover its launch carriers’ LTE services, Apple has announced these three different models:

A North American GSM A1428 model for use on AT&T and Apple’s Canadian partners Bell/Virgin, Rogers/Fido and Telus/Kodo provides LTE support for bands 4 (AWS) and 17 (700b MHz) but not CDMA.

AWS-flavored LTE is exclusive to North America, where it was originally assigned for use as wireless cable. In both the US and Canada, it has been reassigned for mobile voice and data networks. While Canadian carriers used it for LTE deployments, T-Mobile acquired large portions of the U.S. rights to AWS and used it to build out its non-standard 3G UMTS service.

This is one significantly reason why AT&T wanted to acquire T-Mobile two years ago. After the U.S. government intervened, T-Mobile was left with its AWS 3G service incompatible with previous iPhones. It now plans to build out LTE service, although that won’t happen until next year, leaving it with the interim option of shifting its 2G GSM service to 3G/4G HSDPA in order to woo unlocked iPhone 4/4S/5 users (which it currently has in place in only a few markets).

A second, CDMA model A1429 will support Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA network in the U.S. and KDDI in Japan. In addition to the standard “EVDO rev A” 800 and 1900MHz support on previous CDMA iPhones, iPhone 5 now also supports the slightly faster and more efficient rev B on 2100MHz. Sprint and Verizon once considered upgrading to EVDO rev B before throwing their support behind 4G networks, but Japan’s KDDI does use rev B networks. CDMA carriers in India and Russia also support rev B.

More importantly, the CDMA iPhone 5 supports LTE Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz), 13 (700cMHz, used by Verizon) and 25 (1900MHz, used by Sprint). The first three bands overlap those used by Apple’s other carrier partners in Europe and Asia (but not AT&T/Canada), although the company also notes that “band support does not guarantee support on all LTE networks running on the same bands.”

Finally, a third model for the rest of the world supports GSM carriers that have added support for LTE on Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz).

This includes Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Everything Everywhere in the UK, Optus/Virgin and Telstra in Australia, Softbank in Japan, SK Telecom and KT in Korea, SmarTone in Hong Kong, and M1 and SingTel in Singapore.

There are several other global LTE carriers Apple could support, either with its existing models or new models, that the company hasn’t announced any deals with yet.

In Japan NTT DOCOMO uses Band 1, and a long list of other European carriers are deploying Band 3 LTE. T-Mobile, Cricket and Metro PCS use Band 4 (AWS) in the U.S., so these carriers could all apparently be supported by Apple’s existing models, given a carrier agreement.

Other carriers have deployed LTE Bands that none of Apple’s existing iPhone 5 versions support. A variety of carriers in Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland are all deploying Band 7 (2600 MHz), while others in Germany and Sweden are using Band 20 (800MHz), and a variety of Middle Eastern carriers have started building out Band 38 (2600MHz).

iPhone 5 is believed to use Qualcomm’s fifth generation MDM9615 baseband chip, which supports both FDD and TDD signaling technologies for LTE.

FDD or Frequency-Division Duplex signaling technology is used by CDMA and WCDMA/UMTS for most modern cellular systems, and is the technology most LTE providers will use, including the networks being built out by AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. Qualcomm owns most of the patents supporting CDMA and WCDMA technologies.

TDD or Time-Division Duplex is an alternative flavor of the LTE standard developed by China, and is being deployed in that country under the name TD-LTE. China developed its own TD-SCDMA and now TD-LTE to avoid paying Qualcomm’s patent royalties. By supporting both FDD and TDD technologies, Qualcomm’s chipset can enable a single device to work on a wide variety of 3G or 4G networks.

It’s not clear if Apple is supporting TDD-LTE (or China’s 3G TD-SCDMA) in its existing iPhone 5 versions. This would dictate whether a separate model would be needed to support LTE service in China and India. Apple’s partner Softbank initially built out TDD-LTE in Japan, but has since augmented its coverage with standard FDD-LTE.

However the MDM9615 does appear to be giving Apple support for new DC-HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev-B, making it likely that Apple’s existing iPhone 5 models will eventually make it to a wider selection of carriers. And even in areas with incompatible LTE networks, iPhone 5 will support very fast HSPA+ networks at similar speeds to today’s LTE deployments.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.