Microsoft pulls Office 2011 Service Pack 2 update, offers apology and workaround for Outlook database corruption bug

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Date: Monday, April 23rd, 2012, 05:28
Category: News, Software

Well, this is awkward.

A little over a week after releasing an update to its Office 2011 for Mac, Microsoft has stopped pushing out auto-updates for Service Pack 2 over a flaw that corrupts identity databases in the company’s Outlook mail client.

The announcement was made on Friday through the company’s Office blog, and notifies users that automatic updates for SP2 will be temporarily suspended while the company investigates the cause of the problem.

From the post:
“On April 12th, we released SP2 for Office for Mac 2011. The majority of our customers have been delighted with the improvements – new features and performance. Unfortunately, a small percentage are experiencing some issues with the update, specifically related to the Outlook for Mac database.”

Five days after initially releasing SP2, Microsoft posted a workaround and apology to users affected by the update.

The first workaround deals with those users who have yet to install the update, and calls for the rebuilding of Outlook’s database. The second, more comprehensive fix deals with those who already installed the patch and involves a complicated procedure to restore the database to working condition from an existing backup.

Office 2011 for Mac users can still download SP2 through Microsoft’s website, though it is recommended that the workaround be implemented prior to installation.

The SP2 update brought many enhancements for OS X Lion users like full-screen display modes and performance improvements.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.0 (Service Pack 2) released

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Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 06:11
Category: News, Software

Even your crankiest relatives at Thanksgiving can’t deny that an update is a good thing.

On Tuesday, Microsoft released its Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.0 (Service Pack 2) update. The update, a 112 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- Document Connection support for SkyDrive documents is improved. This update enables users to view and access documents that are located in the root level of a SkyDrive folder.

- The drag-and-drop feature in Document Connection is added in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). This update adds a drag-and-drop feature for files in Document Connection in Mac OS X 10.7.

- Upload functionality for SharePoint sites is improved. This update fixes an issue in which you receive the following error message when you upload a file to a SharePoint site: Upload Failed You must sign in to save your changes to the server.

- The Italian grammar checker is improved. This update fixes an issue in which the Italian grammar checker does not check a complete document.

- The German grammar checker is improved. This update fixes an issue in which the German grammar checker does not check a complete document when the document contains certain German sentences.

Improvements for Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011
- The database and the rebuild utility are improved. This update includes fixes that increase the robustness of the database and that improve the effectiveness of the rebuild utility. Outlook for Mac uses the Office database to store personal information, such as messages and contacts.

- This update fixes issues that cause database corruptions, instability, and crashes. This update also improves database transactions and the ability to recover from certain errors. If there is a problem within the database, Outlook for Mac starts the Database Utility, which tries to rebuild the database. After you install this update, the Database Utility recovers additional account information, such as shared resources and categories, and recovers from corruption scenarios. This update also adds the ability to cancel a database rebuild in Outlook for Mac.

- IMAP account sync that includes support for synchronizing with Gmail is improved. After you install this update, Outlook for Mac updates new messages in IMAP folders regularly. Additionally, Outlook for Mac users who use Gmail accounts can map folders, such as Drafts, Deleted Items, Sent Items, and Junk E-Mail, automatically.

- Outlook for Mac performance in key scenarios is improved. This update introduces several performance improvements in the following areas:
General responsiveness during syncing
Deleting multiple records
Displaying email message content
Sending email messages

- Exchange email message sync is improved. This update introduces a new sync model for Exchange. The new model enables Outlook for Mac to download an email message in parts. For example, Outlook for Mac first downloads and displays message text and then downloads large images and attachments.

- Downloading messages in parts reduces the load on the Exchange server and improves performance for the user.

- Support for calendar scheduling resources is improved. This update improves support for calendar scheduling resources and for free/busy comparison functionality in the Scheduling Assistant.

- Week numbers are added to the calendar display. This update adds a preference to enable the calendar to display week numbers.

- Distribution list expansion functionality is included. This update enables you to expand distribution lists into individual members when you add a distribution list in the To field or rest the mouse pointer on a distribution list.

Improvements for Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac 2011:
- Functionality for pasting special hyperlinks is included. This update introduces functionality that enables you to paste special hyperlinks in PowerPoint.

- The list of co-authors is improved. This update fixes an issue in which you cannot see the list of co-authors in a presentation.

- Full Screen View in Lion is supported. This update supports Full Screen View in PowerPoint. Additionally, when you close slide show mode in PowerPoint, edit mode opens.

Improvements for Microsoft Word for Mac 2011:
- Printing PDF faxes is improved. This update fixes an issue in which Word cannot send .pdf files as faxes.

- The user information display in templates is improved. This update fixes an issue in which a Word template does not display a user’s name, address, telephone number, fax number, and email address when you view the template after the template is saved in .doc format.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.2.0 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.

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

Rumor: Apple reportedly shopping around for Apple HDTV prototype parts

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Date: Friday, March 9th, 2012, 07:10
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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When you go looking for components, people tend to notice.

Per AppleInsider, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster told investors on Tuesday that he had recently spoken to a “major TV component supplier” about Apple’s rumored plans to release a connected HDTV. Sources within the supplier reportedly told him that Apple had contacted “regarding various capabilities of their television display components.”

Munster said he viewed the news as “continued evidence that Apple is exploring production of a television.” Prior evidence that the analyst claims to have gathered surrounding an Apple television includes January 2011 meetings in Asia that suggested Apple was investing in manufacturing facilities for LCD displays as large as 50 inches and a September 2011 meeting with a “contact close to an Asian supplier” who claimed prototypes of an Apple set are in the works.

The firm believes Apple could be ready to release a television as early as late 2012, though Munster noted that “the timeline and stope of a revamped content solution is more uncertain.” Various reports have suggested that Apple has run up against resistance from movie and TV studios that are believed to be hesitant to license their content for an Apple television.

The analyst went on to speculate on several possibilities that Apple could make use of to address the content issue. For instance, Apple could simply enable the television to manage pre-existing live TV service from a unified interface, or it could make use of network programming and web-based video services such as Netflix and Hulu. Finally, Munster suggested that Apple could look to offer monthly subscriptions “on an a-la-carte basis” for live TV packages from content providers, but he noted that this is likely the “most challenging scenario” because of existing licensing arrangements.

A separate report claimed late last year that one of Apple’s most-desired features for an Apple television set is customized channel lineups. That report also noted that licensing for such a service would be “obviously much more complicated” than current offerings.

Piper Jaffray projects that Apple could sell 1.4 million of the 106 million internet-connected televisions estimated to be sold this year. The investment bank tentatively estimates that revenues from the device could reach US$2.5 billion in 2012, $4.0 billion in 2013 and US$6.0 billion in 2014.

Munster concluded his note by pointing out that Apple only enters mature markets in order to reinvent them. As such, he does not see Apple entering the TV market without a “revamped TV content solution.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Sprint expected to stay with iPhone, trade off subsidized prices for lucrative contracts

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 07:07
Category: iPhone, News

Even if your profits are down, this is no reason not to back your winning horse.

Per the Barrons.com blog, despite expecting a decline in wireless profits due to the high subsidy cost associated with carrying the iPhone, Sprint plans to exceed its US$15.5 billion minimum purchase agreement with Apple and looks to make up for the profit loss with subscriber revenue.

In the Monday filing of Sprint’s 10-K report for the 2011 fiscal year, it was revealed that the company is betting on subscriber dues to offset an expected 2012 deficit from the agreement with Apple, which called for a minimum order of around US$15.5 billion worth of high-subsidy iPhones.

During 2011, the company entered into a purchase commitment with Apple, Inc. to purchase a minimum number of smartphones, which on average, is expected to carry a higher subsidy per unit than other smartphones we sell.

Sprint’s plan is to take a hit in profits early by purchasing and subsidizing iPhones, then reap the benefits yielded from subscribers with lucrative smartphone contracts. There is evidence that the strategy may be working, as the carrier sold 1.8 million iPhones over the holiday quarter, 40 percent of which were to new subscribers. In contrast, iPhone activations at the top two U.S. carriers Verizon and AT&T stood at 4.2 million and 7.6 million, respectively.

Carriers pay heavy subsidies to carry the iPhone, and Sprint is currently paying US$450 for every unit sold with a two-year contract. On top of what the company calls an “instant savings,” Sprint is the only carrier in the U.S. to offer unlimited data for any iPhone model.

The nation’s third-largest mobile carrier was the last of the “big three” networks to get the iPhone, and only started selling the device in October, 2011 when the newest iPhone 4S was debuted. Combined launch-day sales of the iPhone 4S and last-generation iPhone 4 helped set a new one-day record for Sprint, and the product line continues to draw in new customers.

Previous reports called the iPhone agreement a “bet the company” move, and estimated that the telecom would have to put up US$20 billion for rights to sell the popular Apple handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T customer wins in 3G throttling case, could open floodgates for similar lawsuits against carrier

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:18
Category: 3G Wireless, iPhone, Legal, News

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Sometimes you CAN fight the giant and win.

Per the Associated Press, in a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone’s download speed due to high usage was awarded US$850 on claims that the telecom’s throttling measures are unfair to consumers.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unfairly reduces unlimited data plan users’ bandwidth speeds.

The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T’s smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.

The nation’s second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T’s tiered options.

As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple’s handset and smartphones running Google’s Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of “heavy users.”

An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.

In Spaccarelli’s case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T’s network costs US$30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run US$20, US$30 and US$50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.

According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.

In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.

The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for US$85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.

In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.

AT&T’s attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won’t know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.

So, let the floodgates open. If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Apple releases firmware updates for early and late 2011 MacBook Pro, mid-2011 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 18:11
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released firmware updates for its early and late 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks as well as its mid-2011 MacBook Air Notebooks.

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.7, a 4.1 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Pro (Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (Late 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.4, a 3 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Air (Mid 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

The updates can be directly downloaded and installed or located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

As always, if you’ve tried the new firmware updates and have either positive or negative feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: iPad 3 to add 4G LTE capabilities

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Date: Tuesday, February 14th, 2012, 06:57
Category: iPad, Rumor

There’s usually some truth to a rumor, especially if it’s been circulating for a while.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple will announce a third-generation iPad in early March that is capable of operating on 4G LTE networks from Verizon and AT&T.

Sources close to the story told the publication that Apple is planning on announcing the 4G-capable iPad during the first week of March. The device would reportedly then go on sale with AT&T and Verizon.

That lines up with earlier reports that have suggested the same time frame. One recent rumor claimed the announcement would come on March 7 and was quickly backed up by The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple.

The Journal was unable to learn whether the other major carriers in the U.S., Sprint and T-Mobile, would also sell Apple’s next iPad, though it did point out that AT&T and Verizon are currently the only two operators in the U.S. that run LTE networks. Verizon got an early lead with its 4G network and now reaches 200 million people with the service. AT&T has worked to catch up to its rival, covering 74 million people at the end of 2011.

Sources also said that the next iPad will resort to slower network technology when LTE isn’t available. AT&T sold the original iPad iPad Wi-Fi + 3G in 2010, while Verizon sold the iPad with Wi-Fi and a Mobile Hotspot router. The second-generation iPad, released last year, was capable of running on both Verizon and AT&T from day one.

Though rumors that Apple would transition the iPhone and iPad to LTE in 2012 have persisted for some time, evidence that the company will make the leap next month has mounted in recent months.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T begins data throttling on “Unlimited” data plans at 2GB mark

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Date: Tuesday, February 7th, 2012, 08:55
Category: iPhone, News

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Sometimes it’s as if the wireless carriers WANT you to be disgruntled with them.

Per iLounge, AT&T has begun to throttle—or downgrade the data speeds of—customers on unlimited data plans that go over 2GB in data usage for the month.

As AT&T customer John Cozen wrote on his blog, “I received a message during my last billing cycle, warning I was in the top 5% of my region and would experience reduced data speeds next time I reach that level of data use. I immediately checked my data usage on the AT&T iOS app. 2.1 GB. Less than I expected considering AT&T offers a 3GB plan for US$30 a month. The same amount I’ve paid for the unlimited data plan since signing up with them many years ago. AT&T no longer offers an unlimited data plan, anyone still on it has been grandfathered in.”

“Data consumption by all smartphone customers, including the top 5 percent of smartphone data customers, varies by month and by market,” said Emily Edmonds, Director, AT&T Corporate Communications. “As of August 2011, the average data use across the country by the top 5 percent of AT&T smartphone customers was 2 GB per month.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this change on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to hold iOS 5.1, iPad 3-focused press event in early February

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Date: Tuesday, January 17th, 2012, 12:25
Category: iOS, iPad, Rumor

The nice thing about rumors: there’s generally a small kernel of truth to them.

Per Macotakara, a new rumor suggests Apple is planning to hold an earlier-than-expected special event in early February to introduce its third-generation iPad running iOS 5.1.

The web site reported on Tuesday that the unveiling of a so-called “iPad 3″ along with iOS 5.1 will occur in February, citing both an Asian supplier and a source in the U.S. Despite a rumored early February introduction, the report claims that the new iPad would still launch in early March, much like the iPad 2 in 2011.

Last year, the iPad 2 was introduced in a media event held on March 2, and the device went on sale just 9 days later on March 11. But Tuesday’s rumor would suggest that Apple could have a longer wait time in between the unveiling of a third-generation iPad and its sale date.

That delay would be at least in part because Chinese factories will be shut down to celebrate that country’s New Year. This year’s festival is earlier than usual, and runs from Jan. 23 through 28.

Recent reports have suggested that Foxconn and Pegatron will begin shipping the first “iPad 3″ units in early March. Rumors leading up to the anticipated iPad unveiling have generally pointed toward a March launch of the device, but a monthlong wait time between the unveiling and sale of a new iPad would be a change from Apple’s approach in 2011.

Rumors have generally agreed that the next iPad will support a new high-resolution, Apple-branded “Retina Display” akin to the screens currently found on the iPhone and iPod touch. There have also been claims that Apple will continue to sell the current-generation iPad 2 at a reduced price.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Unicom customers can snag free iPhone 4S handset after signing multi-year contract

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Date: Friday, January 6th, 2012, 09:11
Category: iPhone, News

Incentives are always a good thing.

Apple’s carrier partner in China is offering an aggressive promotion in which customers can get a brand new iPhone 4S for free if they sign a multi-year service contract.

Per Bloomberg, customers can pay as little as 286 yuan, or US$45 per month, for the plan to get a free iPhone 4S. The promotion will begin Friday, Jan. 13, which is the day the iPhone 4S will go on sale in mainland China and 21 other countries.

China Unicom subscribers can get a free 32-gigabyte iPhone 4S with a three-year service contract. And the 16GB model is available free for those who agree to a two-year contract.

The iPhone has already proven to be costly for China Unicom, as the carrier saw its 3G-related cost increase nearly fourfold in the first half of 2011. Some analysts believe the carrier’s heavy iPhone 4S subsidy will only accelerate those costs.

China Unicom’s 3G business has been a money-losing operation for the carrier through the first six months of 2011. Subsidies of smartphones reportedly accounted for 45 percent of the 3G service costs.

The subsidies being offered by China Unicom are much more aggressive than other carriers across the world. For example, in the U.S., customers on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon can get a 16GB iPhone 4S for US$199 with a new two-year plan, while the 32GB model is US$299 and 64GB is US$399.

Customers in the U.S. and some other countries to have an option for a free handset in the form of the iPhone 3GS, which was first released in 2009. That promotion started with the release of the iPhone 4S in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.